It took a jury an hour to find a Laurel County man guilty of rape and even less time to recommend a prison sentence for him.

Three years and one day after he reportedly raped a 5-year-old girl, 19-year-old William Stigall was found guilty of first-degree rape and recommended to serve a 28-year sentence for the crime. His formal sentencing is scheduled for 1 p.m. May 21.

Stigall was tried for the crime in October, but the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision, which is required by state law. Without the agreement of all jurors on the verdict, another trial date was set.

The four-woman, eight-man jury in Monday’s trial had the option of finding Stigall guilty of first-degree rape or first-degree sexual abuse. The rape charge carries a sentence of 20 to 50 years, up to life. Sexual abuse carries a 10- to 20-year sentence.

Stigall’s attorney, Roger Gibbs, told the jury that evidence presented in the trial did not uphold Stigall’s guilt.

“It’s not a question of what, it’s a case of who,” he said during closing arguments.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele said Stigall is a “predator” who made sure there were no witnesses to the incident.

“He (Stigall) says that somebody else did it,” Steele said. “She’s (the child) been pointing at him for three years and a day now. (She) was 5, he was 16.”

Stigall was indicted by a Laurel Grand jury in August 2007 for the incident, which occurred April 4 of that year.

Steele presented evidence during the trial that the child suffered physical injuries that determined rape had taken place.

He also told jurors Stigall had two prior juvenile offenses for sexual abuse at the time of the incident.

Probation and Parole Officer Pamela Bentley told jurors Stigall would have to serve 85 percent of whatever sentence they recommended, because of the violent nature of the crime. He will also have to complete a sex offender program while imprisoned before he can be eligible for parole.

If parole is granted, Stigall will have to enroll in a sex offender program after he is released from prison and will have to register as a sex offender.

Staff writer Nita Johnson can be reached by e-mail at njohnson@sentinel-echo.com.

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