LYNDON — The preliminary hearing for a 38-year-old Melvern man who is facing felony charges in a child sex abuse case set to begin Wednesday afternoon has been continued.
Ronald L. Hartpence Jr.’s next court appearance is scheduled 10:30 a.m. March 13 in Osage County District Court, 717 Topeka Ave., Lyndon.
“The defendant moved for a continuance of the motions hearing, and it was rescheduled at their request,” Brandon Jones, Osage County attorney, said Wednesday afternoon.
Wednesday’s continuance marked the third for the case. Motions for continuances are not uncommon in sex abuse cases.
Hartpence has been charged with two counts of rape against a child younger than 14 and one count of committing aggravated indecent liberties with a different child, who also was younger than 14, according to court documents. He was arrested Jan. 4 by law enforcement officials with the Osage County Sheriff’s Office. He remains in Osage County jail on $300,000 bond.
A Jan. 8 complaint filed by Jones alleges that on two separate occasions between Sept. 1, 2011, and Nov. 27, 2013, Hartpence knowingly had unlawful sexual intercourse with a child younger than 14. During the same time period, the complaint alleges, Hartpence engaged in the lewd fondling or touching of another child younger than 14.
Previously, the prosecution and defense attorney James Campbell were set to begin the preliminary hearing Feb. 19, but when the prosecution was asked to call its first witness, the young victim became scared and was reluctant to take the stand — forcing prosecutors to request a continuance.
Magistrate Judge Taylor Wine granted the motion for a continuance Feb. 19. The preliminary hearing, originally scheduled Feb. 6, previously was derailed by a snowstorm.
The Kansas Attorney General’s Office is aiding Jones in prosecuting the case at his request.
“I did that, and specifically requested a female prosecutor to be assigned to the case, because the female victim thought she would be more comfortable with a female involved in the case,” Jones said in mid-February. “That’s not uncommon in these types of cases, and completely understandable.”
The two rape charges each carry a sentence of life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 25 years. The penalty for aggravated indecent liberties with a child younger than 14 also is life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 25 years.