In the first criminal jury trial to take place in Nelson County in more than a year, a Shipman man was found guilty May 19 on charges of sexually abusing an underage girl.
Kevin Matthew Ramsey, 33, faces 17 years on one count of rape and multiple felony charges of object sexual penetration, aggravated sexual battery and indecent exposure or liberties with a child. A jury found him guilty of all eight charges after about four hours of deliberation.
A sentencing hearing is set for Sept. 3 in Nelson Circuit Court.
Lacking any physical or DNA evidence, the case was tried over a two-day period and relied mostly on the testimonies of those involved and officials associated with the case. The victim, now 14, testified to three separate incidents of sexual abuse that took place across two years from May 2018 to April 2020.
Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Erik Laub said in his opening statement that what began as relatively innocent interactions escalated to a “waking nightmare” in which the victim was unable to stop the defendant from sexually assaulting her.
"What happened at the end of each of these incidents ... that's why we're here," Laub told jurors.
Ramsey maintained his innocence and denied any inappropriate contact or forced sexual intercourse.
Bryan Jones, Ramsey’s defense attorney, argued Ramsey had cooperated fully, voluntarily interviewed with police and took the stand in court. Ramsey's story also remained consistent as opposed to the child's, Jones argued.
Jones also questioned the commonwealth's arguments in that Laub mentioned in his opening statement five separate occasions of sexual abuse, but the victim only testified to three.
“What reasonable explanation do we have for those details missing?” Jones said. “That is the definition of reasonable doubt.”
In his rebuttal, Laub said the difference in accounts was the result of the victim’s young age and a byproduct of her post-traumatic stress disorder.
The jury trial used the larger space of the general district courtroom, rather than the usual circuit courtroom, as a result of the pandemic. The historic courtroom is too small to allow for proper social distancing between jurors, lawyers and clients.
Masks, which previously were required under the county's jury trial plan approved by the Virginia Supreme Court, were not required because of recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The many witnesses did have to remove their masks so the jury could accurately judge their credibility and facial expressions, but the witnesses were kept several feet from others.