A Cottagville man was arrested Thursday on multiple sex-related charges involving underage girls.
James Alan Park, 31, whose last legal address was in Cottageville, was charged with one count of second-degree sexual assault, four counts of third-degree sexual assault and two counts of soliciting a minor via computer. He was arraigned by Jackson County Magistrate Jacqueline Casto, who set bond at $400,000.
Chief Deputy Ross Mellinger of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department said on Monday, July 30, he met with a 15-year-old girl who reported she had been having a sexual relationship with Park. The girl told Mellinger the relationship began in February 2018, when she was 14-years-old.
Park allegedly sent the girl a “friend request” on social media and the two began talking, according to a criminal complaint filed against Park. Soon, the communication became sexual and Park asked the girl to meet in person in “discreet public locations.”
According to the complaint, Park allegedly specifically asked the girl her age and date of birth and became more interested in the girl when he found out she was only 14, according to the criminal complaint.
The relationship turned sexual and Park told the girl he was 31 years old, information he had been keeping from her, according to the criminal complaint. The victim related three separate occasions in which the two allegedly met for sex.
One incident occurred in a shed near the Ripley Water Plant near the beginning of March. A second incident allegedly occurred toward the end of March at a residence in Ripley. A third incident allegedly occurred a few days later at the same location, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, Park allegedly texted the victim on various occasions to engage in sexual phone message conversations. He allegedly also provided marijuana to the girl.
On Tuesday, July 31, Mellinger spoke with a second girl, who is 17-years-old, at the sheriff's department. She also reported having met Park on social media after he sent her a friend request. Mellinger said Park allegedly repeatedly told the girl she was attractive and that he was a “cool guy” in order to win her favor. Park also allegedly bought alcohol for the girl and her friends in late April in order to gain her friendship, trust and loyalty.
On May 27, Park told the girl he could provide her with marijuana, but she would have to come to his residence to get it, according to the criminal complaint. A short time later, the girl went to Park's residence and was invited into his bedroom. The girl told Mellinger she began to fear she would have to perform sexual favors in exchange for the marijuana.
Park allegedly attempted to seduce the girl and forced himself on her when she resisted. At one point, according to the complaint, the girl stopped fighting because she believed it was “too late.”
The girl showed police text messages that occurred between the two in the days after the alleged assault in which Park apologized for what happened, according to the complaint.
Police also guided the girl through a controlled phone conversation with Park in which he again apologized for the alleged assault, and also allegedly discussed the previous sexual relationship he had with the other victim.
According to Mellinger's complaint, police believe there could be additional victims in the case.