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Elizabethton man accused of hiring adolescent girl to model in underwear; girl's mother also charged

John Thompson • Jan 30, 2012 at 5:48 PM

ELIZABETHTON — A man previously classified as a nonviolent sex offender has been arrested on charges of solicitation of a minor for allegedly hiring a 12- to 13-year-old girl to model for him in her underwear. The girl’s mother was also charged.

Leslie Dean Ritchie Jr., 41, 121 Ruby Ave., Lot 5, was arrested last Friday morning on three counts of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of violation of the sex offender registry. The girl’s mother was arrested Monday morning on a charge of aiding Ritchie in the violation of the sex offender law because she allowed him to say in her residence with her daughter.

The arrests came after a Carter County grand jury indicted the pair on Jan. 17.

Lt. Randy Bowers of the Carter County Sheriff’s Department investigated the incident, which he said came from the mother after the couple broke up. He said she did not know of the solicitations Ritchie had made with her daughter at the time they were occurring, but it was a violation for Ritchie to be in the same residence with a child.

“We provide them (sex offenders on the registry list) with a packet of what they can and cannot do,” Bowers said of the sex offender violation. He said they are also given verbal instructions during the first time they report in to the local law enforcement office. One thing that is clearly emphasized, Bowers said, is that Ritchie could not live in a household with children.

The indictment against Ritchie cited Tennessee law which covers sexual exploitation of a minor “by intentionally and by means of oral communication commanding, hiring, persuading, inducing or causing . . . a minor to engage in sexual activity that is patently offensive.”

Ritchie’s bond was set at $80,000. Ritchie and the girl's mother are scheduled to answer the charges against them during the next session of Criminal Court.

Ritchie was on the sex offender’s registry as a result of a guilty plea on a charge of statutory rape. He entered the plea in Carter County Criminal Court in 1996. Judge Arden Hill sentenced Ritchie to a year in prison.

The statutory rape charge involved a 15-year-old girl that Ritchie and another man had encouraged to stay out of school on April 19, 1996, and to have sex with Ritchie.

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