Aaron Duane Carpenter, 43, is at the Flagler County jail on a first-degree rape charge involving a girl over whom he had custody. He is accused of having started assaulting the girl when she was 12, and doing so over several years at his home in Mobile, Ala., in Kingsport, Tenn., and last September at the Hilton Garden Inn, where he had booked a room to visit with the girl, who had moved to Palm Coast last spring.
After the last encounter, the girl attempted suicide, according to Carpenter’s arrest report.
Carpenter faces three felony charges that expose him to a maximum of 60 years in prison if convicted. According to the investigation, and based on text messages he’d written, Carpenter had supposedly considered turning himself in to authorities and admit to the allegations because he did not want to subject the victim to a trial. But he did not do so. He was arrested on Sept. 23 in Mobile on a Flagler County warrant after her mother reported the allegations and sheriff’s detectives began an investigation.
Carpenter remains at the Flagler County jail on $100,000 bond on two charges, and no bond on the third. The prosecution is asking the court to deny him bond, because “there is a substantial probability,” based on Carpenter’s behavior, that he “poses a threat of harm to the community,” being charged “with a dangerous crime,” the prosecution’s motion reads.
According to the motion, the alleged victim had been estranged from Carpenter until she was 12, when Carpenter made contact with her through Facebook. Shortly after that, the girl’s mother began allowing contact between the girl and Carpenter. The alleged assaults began “on her first overnight visit with [Carpenter] at his home in Alabama and continued over the next two years when she would visit him.” Carpenter lived at 2209 Pine Needle Drive in Mobile.
Adults who rape children frequently, if not typically, will rationalize the assaults, turning the tables and blaming the victim while portraying themselves as helpless in the face of supposed seduction. Carpenter, in a controlled phone call (he was apparently speaking with the girl’s mother) did just that: he blamed the girl. “The summer she was here she was really flirty with me, and then one night–it was a Friday night, I believe–I had a few beers. She came on my lap and started kissing me. That’s kinda what happened,” he said. “I mean, that’s literally all there was to it. I never did anything, pushed it, asked for it, or did anything like that.”
But he did not turn her away, explain that it was inappropriate, or have a conversation with her mother. The next time he claims that the girl made advances, he says he “tried to push her away a couple of times,” then described the first time he allegedly assaulted her, but by placing her in the role of the aggressor. Under Florida and Alabama law, a 12-year-old child does not have the capacity to consent to sexual abuse, and there is no such thing as statutory rape–the standard that assumes sexual activity was illegal but consensual–with victims younger than 16.
Carpenter could not explain why he continued assaulting the girl, saying “it just happened. I don’t know. At the time it just felt right.” In the phone call, he again portrayed himself as the obliging victim who was doing the girl a favor and who “never had any intentions to do anything like this.” He also blamed his “sexless marriage,” then said: “I’m not making excuses. I’m just trying to tell you my viewpoint on things.”
In mid-September, he traveled to Palm Coast, booked a room at the Hilton garden Inn and received her visits, at one point taking her to a local liquor and Publix store to buy alcohol, which he gave her to drink. It was the evening after one such encounter at the hotel that the girl consumed several prescription pills in the suicide attempt. She survived. Detectives obtained surveillance video footage from both the liquor store and the Publix branch that showed Carpenter and the alleged victim together.
Carpenter was charged with first degree sexual battery involving a victim between 12 and 18 who is under the perpetrator’s custody, a second-degree count of lewd and lascivious battery, and a second-degree felony count of lewd and lascivious molestation. He is being prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark, and represented by Assistant Public Defender Bill Bookhammer. The motion on his bond will be heard on Nov. 6 before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins. He is to be arraigned on Oct. 19.
While it is often assumed that strangers commit most sex offenses, studies show that three out of four adolescents who are sexually assaulted were assaulted by someone they know, and usually someone they trust, based on reported abuse. A Bureau of Justice Statistics study found that the younger the victim of sexual abuse, the more likely the perpetrator is a family member. For girls between ages 12 and 17, a family member was the offender in 24 percent of cases, and a person known to the victim was the offender in 66 percent of cases, leaving just 10 percent of cases as assaults involving a stranger. It is also estimated that two-thirds of sexual abuse goes unreported.