LARNED, Kan. (KAKE) - A Kansas man was convicted Wednesday of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl at a party in 2013.

The Pawnee County Attorney's Office says 32-year-old James Speer, formerly of Scott City and Larned, Kansas, appeared in court this week for trial regarding two alleged sexual offenses that are alleged to have occurred in 2013.

In a release on Wednesday, Pawnee County Attorney Douglas McNett released the following information regarding the case. 

During bench trial testimony, the state presented that during a conversation with her mother in 2020, the victim said that when she was approximately 8 years old, she had been sexually assaulted at a party her father took her to. The victim stated the assault occurred when a man asked her to sit on his lap near a bonfire.

The girl told her mother that they ultimately spent the night at the party because her father had been drinking heavily. After she had fallen asleep, the victim remembered being awakened to find the same man's face between her legs. She told her mother that she did not know the man who did it but she would "definitely remember his face if she saw it again."

The mother testified at trial that after her daughter's disclosure, she reached out to the girl's father and was able to determine that the party in question happened sometime in 2013 in Garfield, Kansas. While the father could not remember the names of the men at the party, he did remember the names of a couple of women that he attended the party with. 

The mother further testified that she used social media to reach out to the women. One woman responded to her and gave her the names of two men at the party, one of whom was James Speer. The mother was able to obtain pictures of Speer and the other man and Speer and sent the photos to her daughter electronically.

The girl testified at trial that when she opened the photo of the other man, she thought it kind of looked like the assailant, but not exactly. However, when she opened the photo of Speer she instantly couldn’t breathe, and she had a panic attack.

Authorities in Pawnee County were notified about the allegations by the mother after the victim identified Speer as her assailant. A formal forensic interview of the girl was performed by the Child Advocacy Center in Great Bend, Kansas.

Law enforcement testified at trial their investigation revealed that the father had learned of the allegation the day following the party and had told the women he had attended the party with about the allegation. His daughter, however, later reportedly downplayed the actual touching after the father said he was going to kill the man. The father never notified law enforcement.

When law enforcement interviewed the two women identified by the father, they learned that one of the two women had been the live-in girlfriend of Speer at the time of the party.

Both women testified that Speer was at the party, that they saw the girl on his lap, that Speer was the only person’s lap the girl sat on, and that they had also seen Speer carry the girl into the house after she fell asleep. They further testified the other man identified at the party had left before anyone had gone to bed. The other man identified at the party died in 2015. The victim’s father also testified at the trial about remembering Speer being at the party and how his daughter had sat on Speer’s lap.

Additionally, law enforcement discovered that after Speer’s girlfriend learned about the allegation against Speer the day following the party in question, the woman immediately took her own daughter, who was two years old at the time, to the Pawnee Valley Community Hospital for a sexual assault exam. The medical records reflected that the exam took place on May 26, 2013. The records also indicated the exam was being requested due to an allegation that the child’s mother’s boyfriend, Speer, had put his hands on a 7-year-old girl the night before. The records also indicated that the mother lived with James Speer in Garfield but did not intend to return to the home. Based on the information provided, PVCH made referrals to law enforcement and DCF.

A current detective for the sheriff’s department assigned to the case testified that based on his review of the file it appeared no follow-up was done on the referral as Speer was arrested on July 2, 2013, and subsequently charged with having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl. Speer has been in custody since that time.

In 2015, a twelve-person jury convicted Speer of two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a 14-year-old child. 

Speer testified that he had not been at the party in question as he had already moved out of the home on May 1, 2013, and that based on the evidence presented at the jury trial in his 2015 conviction it was impossible for him to have committed the crimes currently charged as he was having a sexual relationship with the 14-year-old during that time frame. Defense counsel then asked in support of their alibi defense that the Court take judicial notice of the trial testimony of the prior jury trial.

Closing arguments in the case were made Wednesday morning.

Judge Bruce Gatterman ordered Speer to register as a sex offender. Sentencing will be scheduled for a later date.

Speer faces between 147 months and 653 months in the custody of the Department of Corrections depending on his criminal history. Based on his prior sex offenses, Speer now also faces the possibility of a mandatory 40-year sentence under the Jessica’s Law sentencing provisions.

Speer is currently in the custody of the Kansas Department of Corrections serving a sentence for his 2015 convictions.

Pawnee County Attorney Douglas McNett presented the State’s case. Speer was represented by Joe Shepack of Great Bend, Kansas.