A local judge has granted another continuance in a case involving a Galveston man accused of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl while she lived with her guardian in Columbus.
Judge Kelly Benjamin rescheduled a change of plea hearing for Travis D. Conley, 26, Galveston, accused of Level 1 felony child molesting, to 1 p.m. Sept. 25 after a public defender said the delay was needed to try to work towards a resolution of a plea bargain agreement.
If convicted of the Level 1 felony, Conley could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison, as well as ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.
Change of plea hearings originally scheduled on Feb. 17 and April 10 haven’t been the only delays in the case. There have been hearings for two violations of jail regulations, a motion for medical services and a request to unseal information in the case.
The judge said a trial date needs to be set, adding it is important to let others know when upcoming court hearings would take place.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Kimberly Sexton-Yeager did not object to another delay, and the judge rescheduled the change of plea hearing. A tentative start for a jury trial is set for 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 24.
The case against Conley began in August 2019, while he was living in Carrolton, Kentucky. He and another Kentucky resident were extradited to Switzerland County on charges of child solicitation and dissemination of matter harmful to minors.
In January 2020, Conley accepted a plea bargain that allowed him to plead guilty to child solicitation only. While he was put on probation, Conley was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the next 10 years.
In August 2021, a report of child abuse or neglect was made to state officials by a sheriff’s deputy in Crawford County, located west of Louisville, Kentucky, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The deputy informed the Indiana Department of Child Services that a 7-year-old girl claimed an adult male had forced her to commit sexual acts while she was living with her guardian in Columbus, the affidavit states. At the time of the alleged crimes, Conley had also been staying in the guardian’s home, according to court documents.
The child was interviewed at the Comfort House Child Advocacy Center in Corydon. After claiming that she was first touched inappropriately, the girl said Conley performed more deviant acts after ordering her to go into the bathroom, the affidavit states. The guardian and the little girl lived in Columbus no more than five months before moving out of county, court documents state.
After the guardian confirmed Conley had stayed several weeks at the home in Columbus, detectives interviewed Conley, who initially denied having any sexual contact with the little girl, the affidavit states. But during further questioning, Conley changed his story to claim the 7-year-old tried to force herself on him, the affidavit states. A number of other inconsistencies were found in Conley’s version of events, detectives said in court documents.
The probable cause affidavit was filed on March 9, 2022 – the same day Benjamin issued a no contact order involving Conley and the alleged victim. But when officers in Knox County attempted to arrest Conley a month later, they found the residence near Vincennes was empty, court records state.
It wasn’t until early last February that local investigators discovered Conley had been ordered to serve nearly two years in prison by a Cass County judge for failing to register as a sex or violent offender.
He was returned to Columbus for an initial hearing on Feb. 9.