On Sunday, December 30, 2018, a complaint was lodged by a concerned father. His six-year old daughter had just come to tell him she had been abused by a much older man, a man her family trusted. At the time, the victim’s parents were not together, she initially came to her father and stepmother to speak out.
Danny Lee Sharp was dating the child’s grandmother, Connie Summerford, and at the time of the abuse, he was living in a van on Summerford’s property.
(The grandmother, Connie Summerford has now been charged with the sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12 and is awaiting trial.)
The child was immediately taken to the Dekalb County Children’s Advocacy Center and later underwent nine months of counseling to prepare her for court and for the rest of her life.
Jackson County Assistant District Attorney Krystina Jackson represented the State and was assigned the case, along with Victim Service Officer Sheila Morris and Wilson, the Courthouse Facility dog, who never left her side, even when she was preparing for court and while on the stand.
“When she walked in, I thought, ‘It’s you and me in this.’ This was one of the first cases we had tried the past year that was like this. Most of them, the victim has already passed, and we are there to preserve their memory and seek justice for whatever was done to them. It was amazing to have the victim here with us,” Jackson stated.
“I appreciate everyone involved, and I appreciate the faith the family put in us. They trusted us with their child, and I can’t put that into words. I also want to thank the jury for the hard decision they had to make.”
Sharp’s trial began on February 14, 2022 and ran for four days. The victim, now nine years of age, was able to take the stand and speak out against Sharp, relaying to the court what happened to her, all while Wilson was beside her.
On February 18, 2022, it took the jury around two hours to reach the verdict of guilty on all charges.
The charges and sentencing were as follows:
• First degree sodomy of a child six years of age or less | Life without the possibility of parole
• Two counts of sexual abuse of a child under 12 years of age | 20 years in prison for each
• Two counts of enticing a child to enter a vehicle, house, etc. for immoral purposes | 10 years in prison for each, suspended, followed by three years’ State probation after releases from other sentences.
According to the official sentencing handed down by Circuit Judge John H. Graham, “The sentence in each case shall run consecutive to one another. In each case, Sharp is assessed all court costs, including a Crime Victim Compensation Assessment in the amount of $10,000 and reimbursement of the fees and expenses of his court-appointed attorneys.”
The child has completed all steps of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and in the future, should she need it, the Children’s Advocacy Center will always be available to her until she reaches the age of 18 and for all non-offending family members.
by Martha Smith