A repeat sex offender who pled guilty to 'disturbing' criminal sexual conduct with a minor has been sentenced to 25 years, according to Eleventh Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard.
Jerry Dean Heard, 65, pled guilty in Edgefield County to first degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and was sentenced to 25 years in prison by Circuit Court Judge R. Scott Sprouse, according to Hubbard. This crime is classified as a no parole offense.
Heard's trial was scheduled to begin this week. During jury qualifications, Hubbard says Heard changed his mind and entered a plea of guilty.
Prior to delivering the sentence, Judge Sprouse reviewed the evidence and described the case as “disturbing.” Hubbard says Heard admitted to the sexual assault of the child.
The child victim, now age 8, and a witness, age 11, were present at the Edgefield County Courthouse to testify against Heard. Families of both children were also present for sentencing.
Investigators say an 11-year-old witness was able to record audio of a sexual assault committed by Heard while she was using her tablet. The audio recording captured Heard in the act of sexually assaulting the younger child, who was 6 years old at the time, investigators say.
Heard, a family acquaintance of both girls, was alone with the children during the incident, according to Hubbard. Family members of both girls later listened to the audio recording and identified the voice of Jerry Heard and then notified the Edgefield County Sheriff’s Office, says Hubbard. The tablet was then sent to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED) for further analysis.
Hubbard says Heard is a repeat sex offender with a 1990 conviction from Alabama for a sexual assault against a child under the age of 12. The Alabama conviction occurred prior to the creation of the public sex offender registry, therefore, authorities in South Carolina were not aware that Heard was a convicted sex offender.
"Our office continues to focus on these perpetrators of crimes against children," said Hubbard. "We will maintain our efforts to bring them to justice and keep our communities safe.”
Heard has been transferred to the S.C. Department of Corrections to begin his sentence.