HENDERSON COUNTY, NC (FOX Carolina) A Henderson County jury sentenced a 25-year-old man to at least 58 years in prison after he was found guilty of two counts of statutory rape.
According to a press release from the District Attorney's office, Kenneth Whitehead, from Bristol, Tennessee, and a thirteen year old girl were camping at the North Mills River Campground in 2016 when they approached another camper for food.
In the victim's testimony, she detailed that she told the other camper she was eighteen and gave a false name. Whitehead also provided a false name.
The other camper ended up helping the couple, and through casual conversation, was able to gather information that prompted them to contact the Henderson County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies were able to determine that the young girl was actually in her early teens, and had been reported missing from Missouri.
"The defendant apparently met the 13 year old through a mutual friend in Tennessee. He claimed to be helping her deal with a troubled home situation, but the truth is that he saw a vulnerable teen and he used her for his own sexual gratification," said District Attorney Greg Newman.
Whitehead admitted in a statement given to the Sheriff's Office that he had sex with the child at least twice. He was arrested, and has been held in the office's custody during the case.
It was discovered Whitehead has a criminal record of both felonies and misdemeanors in at least three states.
The young girl was put in the custody of Social Services, and eventually returned back to her mother in Missouri.
"This defendant, and others just like him, who are looking to take advantage of the most vulnerable in our communities – the young, the elderly, the poor, mentally challenged, etc. – are dangerous people and need to be dealt with in the most serious and severe terms,” Newman said.
After a two hour deliberation, a Henderson County jury found Whitehead guilty of two counts of statutory rape. A judge handed down two consecutive sentences, which total 699 months in prison, or 58 years and three months.
He'll be eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 482 months, or 40 years.