Local News

Dad pleads guilty to indecent liberties with daughters' friends

Posted August 4, 2011 7:04 p.m. EDT
Updated August 5, 2011 7:45 a.m. EDT

— A Johnston County man pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 counts of taking indecent liberties with a child in connection with sex crimes against three young girls who were friends with his daughters.

John Eric Dutton, 45, of 112 Amberley Court in Garner, was sentenced to eight to 10 years in prison and must register as a sex offender upon his release.

Four of the counts were Alford pleas, where a defendant doesn't have to admit guilt but accepts a plea because it is in his or her best interest.

The parent of one of the victims, who was 8 years old at the time of the crimes in 2009 and 2010, said that Dutton was a trusted family friend and that she feels betrayed by what he did.

"He was so involved in the school and the community with so many children," the mother said. "It's been heartbreaking."

Johnston County Assistant District Attorney Paul Jackson said that Dutton would inappropriately touch the girls when they visited his home for play dates and slumber parties with his two young daughters.

Dutton's daughters were not present at the time of the crimes, which also included Dutton exposing himself, fondling the children and soliciting them to perform sex acts, Jackson said. Defense attorney Patrick Roberts said his client denied at least one of the allegations.

One child admitted to her parents what was happening and said that Dutton told her not to tell.

The parents had become worried and took their daughter to a therapist when she started crying, stopped eating and started losing weight.

Jackson said that the girl admitted that she was worried that Dutton might "do things" to other girls.

"Every one of these parents believed their children was going to be safe with him," Jackson told Superior Court Judge Tom Locke.

Speaking in court, the father of one of the victims said he felt like he had disappointed his daughter by not protecting her from Dutton.

"I blame myself," he said. "I did not see him for the individual that he is. I have to personally live with that. It will cost my daughter for the rest of her life."

Another parent called Dutton a threat to society.

"He took advantage of her innocence," the mother said. "He is a predator of the worst kind."

Dutton's children were present Thursday and made tearful pleas with the court.

"I beg on my knees that my daddy hardly gets any time in prison," one of his daughters read from a statement. "He has always been by my side. … I truly hope you see how much I need my daddy."

Roberts said his client, an Iraq war veteran, realizes the impact his conduct has had on the victims' lives.

"Certainly, we understand the anger and the grief of the families. I don't have an explanation. I wouldn't venture to offer one," Roberts said. "There is good in this man."

"He has potential to do better," he added

But Jackson said child molesters don't look like dangerous people.

"This strikes fear into the heart of every parent," he said. "You can never see it coming."