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A Locust Grove man found guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old relative has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

A Locust Grove man found guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old relative has been sentenced to 12 years of active prison time and likely faces a longer period of incarceration after he is sentenced in May for additional offenses.

As part of a plea agreement, Mark Murray Simons, 43, pleaded guilty to three felonies: filming a nude minor without her consent and two charges of storing pornographic images of the girl on his cellphone.

Orange County Circuit Court Judge Dale Durrer sentenced Simons to 12 years, with seven years suspended, for the first charge, and a total of 17 years, with 10 suspended, for the other two. The sentence includes five years of supervised probation.

During the two-day bench trial concluding last Tuesday, Simons was also was found guilty of two felony charges of indecent liberties with a child by a family member and attempted forced sodomy. His sentencing for those convictions is set for Friday, May 8, at 9:30 a.m.

The defendant was represented by attorney David Randall, and the lead prosecutor was Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Russel Henderson. As part of the plea deal, dozens of felony charges related to pornographic images of unidentified children on his phone were not prosecuted.

According to Orange County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Katie Fitzgerald, who also worked on the case, those charges could be revisited at any time if the victims in the images are identified. Simons was indicted on multiple felony charges in September of 2018 after the victim told her parents he had sexually assaulted her, and her parents subsequently contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Fitzgerald said that as part of the criminal investigation, forensic analysts for the Virginia State Police discovered a large cache of pornographic images stored on the defendant’s phone, including identifiable images of the girl who reported the sexual assault. The teenage victim testified during the trial.

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen a teenager who was that solid as a witness,” Fitzgerald said, noting that the girl maintained eye contact with the judge and her statement was consistent with what she previously had told prosecutors. “The judge even commented that he found her extremely credible in her testimony,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said Ryane Wharton, director of the county’s Victim Witness Program, had worked with the girl before the stressful court appearance so she would be able to tell “a horrible story in front of strangers.”

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