7:30 PM
Fred Ritchey (mug shot SCSO)

Jury selection was scheduled to begin tomorrow (11-15-12) for a Crane man charged with statutory rape and sodomy.  However, on the eve of his trial, Fred Ritchey entered a surprise Alford plea to amended charges of attempted statutory sodomy.

Last October authorities charged Ritchey after his stepdaughter said he had inappropriately touched her after another girl said he attempted to rape her when she stayed all night at Richey's home in June of 2011.

In the amended plea agreement, prosecutor Matt Selby dropped the attempted statutory rape charge.  Ritchey was then sentenced to one year in jail, which he has already served, as he has been incarcerated since being arrested while awaiting trial.

Selby says he agreed to the arrangement because Ritchey has four years to serve for a bank robbery conviction in Arkansas, and he would not have gotten any more time than that if he had been found guilty by a Stone County jury.

"My primary concern is always the well being of the child in cases like this," said Selby.  "The objective in this case was a felony sex conviction that would require him to have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life."

But there was also a bit of strategy in the plea deal that wasn't fully understood until after sentencing. "Because he was paroled here after he was released from prison in Arkansas, he will not ever be able to be paroled back to Missouri because he committed a crime here while he was on parole."

"These kids that he seeks out tend not to be in the best homes," Selby said.  "Because he now has to register as a sex offender, he won't be able to cohabitate with anyone who has children under the age of eighteen."

An Alford plea is one in which the defendant does not admit guilt but, acknowledges that the state has enough evidence to secure a conviction if the case were to proceed to trial.