Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 13, 2012

Child sex abuse trial opens in Carter

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

GRAYSON — The trial of a former Carter County resident accused of sexually molesting two children over a seven-year period opened Wednesday in Carter Circuit Court.

General Jackson “Jack” Tackett III, 43, could be sentenced to life in prison if he is convicted of the more serious charges against him. He faces two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, one count of first-degree rape and four counts of first-degree sodomy.

 Because his alleged victims — one male and one female — were younger than 12 at the time of the alleged abuse, the rape and sodomy charges are Class A felonies that carry prison terms of 20 to 50 years, or life, Carter Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary Conn told jurors. The sexual abuse charges are Class B felonies that carry sentences of five to 10 years each.

According to Conn, the alleged offenses occurred during a period between 1997 and 2004. In the case of the male victim, the abuse began when he was 5 with the defendant touching him in a sexual manner and eventually escalated to “full-fledged sodomy,” he said.

The male victim is related to Tackett. The exact nature of their relationship isn’t being revealed because it could threaten his anonymity. The Independent does not publish the names of alleged sex crime victims without their permission.

During one episode of abuse, Tackett allegedly threatened the male victim after he cried out in pain, telling him “If you cry, I’ll make it worse,” Conn said. Tackett also allegedly intimidated the youngster into keeping silent about the molestation, telling him no one would believe him if he spoke up about it, “and even if they do, what are they going to do about it?” he said.

The female victim was friends with one of Tackett’s children. She was molested one night while spending the night at his house after leaving the bedroom where she had been sleeping to get a glass of water and several more times after that, Conn said.

In fact, Conn said he believed the six charges against Tackett were the tip of the iceberg. He said those charges accounted only for the episodes the alleged victims could remember in detail and that he believed there had been “hundreds” of others.

Conn told the seven-woman, six-man jury the male victim and the female victim, now 20 and 18 respectively, would both relive the abuse they suffered at Tackett’s hands on the witness stand. In fact, he said, the entire case was based on their word alone. Both were examined by doctors, he said, but those exams did not turn up any conclusive evidence of sexual abuse, mainly because so much time had elapsed since it allegedly took place.

Conn also said it wasn’t clear why the two waited several years before telling anyone about the alleged molestation. It came to light last year, he said, when the girl told her mother about it, the mother took her for counseling and the counselor reported it to the Kentucky State Police.

 During the course of the investigation, the KSP contacted the mother of the male victim, who now lives in Pennsylvania, Conn said. She told her son about the investigation and he revealed he too had been abused by Tackett.

Tackett, a former Olive Hill resident who had moved to Guatemala, was arrested in June of last year after returning to the area. He was taken into custody following a traffic stop on Interstate 64 near Catlettsburg shortly after his plane landed at Tri-State Airport.

 According to the KSP, its investigation into Tackett’s alleged illegal activities began the month before his arrest after the agency was notified by the state Department of Community Based Services the alleged victims had come forward and claimed they were molested by Tackett over an extended period of time.

In her opening remarks, Tackett’s lead attorney Ashley Witte of Cincinnati told jurors the commonwealth’s case against her client was paper-thin, lacking evidence that was anywhere near sufficient to prove Tackett guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

 “At the end of the commonwealth’s case, you’re going to be left with many unanswered questions,” she said.

One such question, she said, was why did a forensic examination of Tackett’s computer performed by the KSP after his arrest turn up nothing damning?

 “If Jack is sexually interested in children, don’t you think something’s going to come up on his computer?” she said. “But nothing came up. Nothing was found.”

  Witness testimony in the case is scheduled to begin at 9:30 this morning. Judge Rebecca Phillips said she anticipated the trial lasting the balance of the week and possibly through Monday.

  KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.