Renfrow guilty of sexual battery

By Staff
CONVICTED Harland Craig Renfrow, left, heads for the Lauderdale County jail Thursday after a Circuit Court jury convicted him of sexual battery against his daughter. Renfrow is escorted by Lauderdale County Sheriff's Deputies Paul Tadlock Jr., center, and Greg Crain, right. Renfrow faces up to 30 years in prison. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Suzanne Monk/managing editor
Feb. 22, 2002
Harland Craig Renfrow was convicted Thursday in Lauderdale County Circuit Court of sexual battery against his then 3-year-old daughter.
The jury took just under two hours to render its verdict.
Renfrow was arrested in June 2000, days after he took his daughter to the emergency room of Riley Hospital.
Doctors there discovered the girl had serious injuries to her vagina, rectum and bowels. Several surgeries have been necessary to repair the damage. Renfrow told emergency room personnel that she "fell on a baby bottle."
An expert witness testified that the injuries could not have occurred in that way.
In this case, the charge "sexual battery" described penetration by a foreign object.
The defense
The injuries to the child were discovered during a visit at Renfrow's house.
Attorney Stewart Parrish told the jury there were problems with the prosecution's timeline of events creating a window of opportunity during which any number of people could have attacked the child.
He said sheriff's investigator Tracy Hill-Watts never investigated any other suspects.
The prosecution
The trial included a number of complicated issues but, in the end, District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell said there was no need to investigate any other suspects.
In closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Vel Heidelberg highlighted seemingly guilty behavior on Renfrow's part.
He left the hospital while his daughter was still in the emergency room, returning home to strip the bed and put the bloody sheets in the washing machine. He said he put a diaper she had been wearing outside, where neighborhood dogs must have found it and carried it off.
Circuit Judge Larry Roberts said a sentencing hearing for Renfrow will be scheduled as soon as possible. Renfrow could receive up to 30 years.