A Sedalia man has been sentenced to life in prison for molesting his niece two years ago.
Robert J. Neighbors, 53, was convicted on two counts of first degree child molestation by a jury June 26 after two days of trial in the Pettis County Circuit Court. Neighbors had been arrested in January 2014 after being accused of molesting his 7-year-old niece two times over the course of a year.
Neighbors, already a registered sex offender, was sentenced Monday afternoon in Saline County Circuit Court to two life sentences to be served consecutively.
According to court documents, the victim’s father came to the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office Jan. 3, 2013, after his daughter disclosed to him her uncle had touched her inappropriately on two occasions over the previous year. The incidents occurred at the victim’s Sedalia residence, where she lived with her mother, grandmother, uncle and other relatives.
A forensic interview was conducted by Child Safe of West Central Missouri Inc. with the child Jan. 3, 2014, and contact was made with Neighbors by the sheriff’s office the same day.
Since the victim was younger than 12, the charges are considered a Class A felony. According to information provided by Pettis County Prosecutor Phillip Sawyer, who presented during the trial on behalf of the State, Neighbors had previously been convicted on seven counts of first degree sexual abuse in 1995 by a jury in Boone County. For these reasons, the case was punishable up to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Circuit Judge Dennis Rolf presided over both the trial and sentencing hearing.