Man gets 30 years for rape from Miller County jury

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A Fouke, Ark., man who sexually abused a girl living in his home for two years beginning when she was 11 was found guilty of rape and sexual assault Wednesday and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The jury sentenced Larry Zane Neff Jr., 50, to 30 years for rape and five years for second-degree sexual assault. The sentences will run concurrently.

According to testimony at trial, the girl was 4 when she and her younger brother went to live with a relative following the death of their mother. Neff was living with and later married the woman who took the children in to her home.

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The girl’s aunt testified that she had several children sleeping over at her home when she was given a note from the victim in the early hours of Oct. 28, 2018. In the note shown to the jury the girl describes sexual abuse and asks her aunt for help. The aunt contacted the Miller County Sheriff’s Office.

MCSO Investigator Patsy DeHart testified that she interviewed Neff. DeHart said Neff denied sexually abusing the girl but admitted to lying down with her and to being alone with her at times.

The girl testified that Neff abused her with his hands and mouth and that Neff forced her to touch him sexually. Neff’s attorney, Tommy Potter of Texarkana, argued that Neff’s weight of more than 400 pounds and other medical problems made it impossible for him to do what the girl claims he did.

Potter also pointed to a lack of evidence found on computer and other digital storage devices taken from Neff’s home during a search Nov. 1, 2018. No evidence of a video the girl claimed Neff showed her of a woman licking and talking to a banana was recovered by Arkansas State Police forensic computer analysis.

A computer and cell phone Neff took with him before the search of his home were turned over to investigators Nov. 5, 2018.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys Connie Mitchell and Kristian Robertson argued that it is possible that Neff took other digital evidence such as flash drives with him when he left the Fouke residence prior to the search. The prosecutors noted in closing arguments that the girl has given the same account of abuse repeatedly since making her first outcry to her aunt.

Neff was taken into custody at the end of the trial. Circuit Judge Carlton Jones presided.

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