Outrage erupts after ex-con on parole charged in Butler, Lowndes Co. rapes
BUTLER COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - A Greenville man with a long criminal history is once again back behind bars, charged in connection with two sexual assaults that happened on the same day in two different counties.
During a press conference Monday, the Butler County sheriff and district attorney slammed the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles for allowing the suspect to be back out in the community when he was supposed to be serving a life sentence in prison.
Willie Fred Jenkins, 39, faces multiple charges in Butler County and Lowndes County stemming from the most recent offenses.
According to officials, Jenkins was responsible for two rapes that involved two different women last Wednesday. One occurred shortly after midnight. The other happened several hours later in a different county, after 9 a.m.
On Feb. 1 the Butler County Sheriff's Office received a call regarding a victim who had been raped north of Greenville.
Charlotte Tesmer, district attorney for Alabama's Second Judicial Circuit, which includes Butler, Lowndes, and Crenshaw counties, said the rape victim in the Butler County case went to the hospital in Greenville around 4 p.m. She was interviewed by investigators, and authorities then began searching for Jenkins.
Jenkins ended up turning himself in, and Tesmer says shortly after he was taken into custody in the Butler County case, officials received a call from another victim, a 48-year-old woman who lives in Butler County but was raped in Lowndes County.
Tesmer said the second victim was raped at two different locations on several hundred acres of hunting land near Minter, then forced to put her clothes back on and get back in the car. According to Tesmer, the woman was sexually assaulted again when Jenkins pulled behind a church on Highway 21.
He is charged with rape, sodomy, and kidnapping in the Butler County case. He is also charged with three counts of rape in the Lowndes County case.
When asked if Jenkins knew the rape victims, Tesmer responded: "He knew of them, almost like a friend of a friend, not a long term relationship or long term knowledge of them."
Willie Fred Jenkins is no stranger to the criminal justice system. In 1996, he pleaded guilty to theft of property, escape, and burglary.
"In those burglary cases, firearms were involved. He was sentenced to the penitentiary and got out at some point," Tesmer said.
Then in 2002, he pleaded guilty in Wilcox County to robbery. Tesmer said the victim was a nun who worked at a health clinic in Pineapple who had stopped to help three people on the side of the road.
"They were armed with weapons. They took her personal items, including her purse. They made her get into her trunk and shot several rounds into her trunk and left that area," Tesmer added.
The victim was wounded but survived.
Jenkins was sentenced to life in prison, but he was released in August. Within eight days of his release, he faced new charges involving underage girls. Officials say he enticed the girls for immoral purposes at a home in Butler County.
According to Alabama law, Enticing a Child for Immoral Purposes is a Class C felony to invite or persuade a child younger than 16 to engage in sexual acts (anything from fondling—even over clothing—to having sexual intercourse) in any place, such as a vehicle, office, or house.
Jenkins was arrested but later made bond.
After his arrest in August, he had a parole hearing during which Butler County investigators testified about the case involving the young girls. Tesmer said the board chose not to revoke his parole.
"It's offensive and unimaginable to me that the board did not revoke his parole. They should have looked at his whole history," she said. "This is not somebody who needs to be on the streets."
Jenkins was transported to the Lowndes County Jail Friday afternoon. The DA's Office has filed a motion to revoke his bond in the cases from August involving the two juvenile victims for violating the conditions set forth by the court.
A $750,000 bond has been set on the rape case out of Butler County and Tesmer has requested a $1 million bond on the rape case out of Lowndes County. She is asking that his parole be revoked based on his new charges. Officials indicated that he will be having a parole hearing in the very near future.
"This man has proven that he's violent. He had weapons involved in the original Butler County cases back in 1996. He had weapons when he was involved in the case over in Wilcox County. The investigation is showing that he also had a weapon in at least one of the rape cases," Tesmer added.
Sheriff Kenny Harden said it was a mistake that Jenkins was ever released from prison in the first place because it allowed him to commit more crimes and claim more victims.
"He is scheduled to have another hearing. Hopefully, the parole board will do what they need to do and revoke him and send him back to the penitentiary to serve his life sentence, plus the new charges that we have," Harden said. "He needs to spend his life sentence in the penitentiary. If the parole board had done their job, we wouldn't have these four victims that we have now."
The August 2016 and February 2017 cases against Jenkins will be presented to a grand jury.
Representative Chris Sells (R-AL 90th District) also attended Monday's press conference and pledged to research the case thoroughly and find out why Jenkins was released after only serving 14 years of his life sentence.
"The state needs to do everything we can to keep these violent criminals behind bars," Sells said. "We have to keep monsters like this off the street. That's our job as lawmakers, police officers, and district attorneys, to put these people away and keep them away from the general public."
Sheriff Harden says local authorities didn't know Jenkins was up for parole in August and he feels they should have been notified since that's where Jenkins planned to live, even though his life sentence stemmed from a crime in Wilcox County.
"I don't think they're paying attention to the violent people. The prisons are overcrowded. I know that and I'm sure there are people they can let out who don't have a violent past and keep these kind of people in. They're jeopardizing the safety of the citizens whenever they turn them out," Harden added.
We reached out to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles regarding the new charges against Willie Fred Jenkins and we are waiting to hear back from the agency.
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