By SHELLEY TERRY
It took a jury two hours to find Kyle Bickerstaff of Ashtabula guilty of one count of rape of a child under the age of 13, Ashtabula County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci said Monday.
During the two-day trial, the 11-year-old victim testified she knew Bickerstaff, who’s 24 years old and from Knoxville, Tenn., through mutual relatives. They “instant messaged” each other at the start of last summer. The messages became more personal as the summer went on, until one night he walked into her room and sexually assaulted her.
It is alleged that this happened more than once. The 11-year-old said she was too afraid and embarrassed to tell anyone at first. Then, at the end of last summer, she told her mother.
The mother reported the assault to the Ashtabula Police Department, which investigated the allegations.
Bickerstaff was arrested on the indictment in July in his home state of Tennessee by U.S. Mar-shals, and extradited to Ohio to face the charges.
The defendant and his wife testified at the trial, denying any sexual conduct had occurred, Iarocci said.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty on count one of rape and not guilty on count two of rape, he said.
Ashtabula County Common Pleas Judge Gary L. Yost sentenced Bickerstaff to the statutory mandatory indefinite sentence of 10 years to life in prison. The defendant also will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Iarocci said he was pleased with the verdict and he praised law enforcement agencies involved in the case.
“I want to commend the Ashtabula Police Depart-ment for the high level of professionalism and hard work displayed during this investigation,” he said. “I also want to commend my assistant prosecutor, Cecilia Cooper, for her excellent work in preparing this case for trial and courtroom advocacy.”