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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Pender County man convicted of child sex crimes decades after they were first reported

Haywood Elwood Garner, 71, was sentenced to 16-20 years in prison for sexually assaulting five child victims between 1993 and 2006. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy District Attorney Ben David's Office)
Haywood Elwood Garner, 71, was sentenced to 16-20 years in prison for sexually assaulting five child victims between 1993 and 2006. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy District Attorney Ben David’s Office)

BURGAW — Haywood Elwood Garner, 71, was sentenced to 16 to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to child sex crimes committed between 1993 and 2006.

The Pender County man pled guilty on Tuesday to one count of a statutory sex offense, three counts of a first degree sex offense, and one count of indecent liberties with a child; he faced as many as 37 felonies, including victims as young as four years old and alleged incidents dating back as far as 1979. He was sentenced by Honorable John Nobles of the Pender County Superior Court.

According to a release from District Attorney Ben David, Garner will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life “in the unlikely event he is ever released from prison.”

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Between 1993 and 2006, Garner sexually assaulted five child victims — all of whom went to the authorities at the time of their assaults. Pender County Sherriff’s Office (PCSO) detectives investigated but did not have enough evidence at the time to pursue charges, according to the release.

In 2016, a sixth child victim was identified and the investigation was reopened by PCSO Detective John Leatherwood, who was then able to connect all of the assaults and identify similarities between the victims. This led to Garner’s arrest in 2016; he has been incarcerated since that time.

Many of the victims, some now into their 30s, were present for Tuesday’s plea and delivered victim impact statements to the court before sentencing, according to the release.

“The victims in this case finally had their day in court and were able to bring legal closure to a difficult period of their lives,” David said. “It is my hope that their healing will continue now that they have had a chance to speak out against this predator.”

He said that his office will continue to pursue similar cases “no matter how old and no matter what the challenges.”

Assistant District Attorney Jason Smith, who handled the case, thanked Detective Leatherwood for his “relentless pursuit of the truth.”

“We would not have been able to secure a conviction without his determination and the bravery of the many women who came forward and were willing to testify against their abuser,” Smith said.

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