A message from the victim's mother
By By Suzanne Monk/ managing editor
February 24, 2002
My responsibilities at The Meridian Star prevented me from attending much of Harland Craig Renfrow's trial, so I didn't know everyone in the courtroom but the victim's mother was hard to miss. She was the small lady with red-rimmed eyes surrounded by her family, who reached out in the especially hard moments to touch her shoulder, pat her hand, let her know they were there.
Renfrow was convicted Thursday of sexual battery in a June 2000 attack on his own child. The little girl was 3 years old at the time. Several surgeries were needed to repair the damage.
Her mother, Frankie Davis, sent me an e-mail on Friday and asked me to pass on her thanks for all the support, prayers and hard work that have gone into healing her daughter and prosecuting the child's father.
Davis also wanted to publicly acknowledge her family and friends, District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell, Assistant DA Vel Heidelberg, her daughter's doctors and Tracy Hill-Watts, the sheriff's deputy who investigated the case.
She asks that people not think badly of Renfrow's family.
The unpleasantness of what one courthouse official called the "most repulsive" case he has ever seen was heightened by the fact that the air conditioning wasn't working for most of the trial.
Renfrow was originally arrested for capital rape. He was indicted twice, the first time for statutory rape. That indictment was dismissed when it was learned that a foreign object was used to inflict the damage, and he was re-indicted for sexual battery.
Stewart Parrish, Renfrow's attorney, lost a couple of pre-trial battles. He asked for a change of venue based on the extensive news coverage of his client's arrest and the publicizing of benefits to raise money for the victim's family.
Parrish also asked in pre-trial motions that the district attorney not be allowed to show the jury a dildo he believed was the weapon used. The judge ruled against him. In closing arguments, Parrish told the jury, "This sex toy is here to confuse you, to mislead you, to inflame you."
The jurors were sequestered, and spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights at a local motel to keep them from being affected or biased by anything they might hear out in the community. There were three alternate jurors, instead of the usual two.
The victim, now 5 years old, was scheduled to testify but was ruled incompetent based on her age at the time of the attack.
Assistant District Attorney Vel Heidelberg was impressive in closing arguments, allowing her sense of outrage to translate itself in her voice and gestures loud and large.
In the two years before the attack, Renfrow was arrested for domestic violence and child abuse.
Early on in Renfrow's incarceration at the Lauderdale County jail, he was attacked by other inmates. He should probably get used to that. I don't imagine the convicts at Parchman Penitentiary are going to like him any better.