A jury Friday sentenced 53-year-old Johnny Ray Conley of Cooper to 75 years in prison on each of the four aggravated sexual assault of a child charges. The same jury found Conley guilty of all four charges Thursday night, after at least 5 hours of deliberations.
“Today, a Hopkins County jury sent a message that this community does not tolerate pedophiles. The jury, as well as Judge [Eddie] Northcutt, have ensured that this defendant will never be able to harm another child,” Assistant District Attorney Matt Harris stated following the trial.
Conley will serve three of the 75 years term concurrently, with the fourth to be served consecutively.
“I urged a Motion to Cumulate Sentences to the Court, which was partially granted by Judge [Eddie] Northcutt. What that means is that the judge stacked one of the 75-year sentences on top of the other three, which run at the same time. The bottom line is that Mr. Conley will not be eligible for parole for 60 years. He will be 113 years old at his first parole eligibility,” explained Harris.
Thee case was not an easy one, due to the length of time that’d passed since the offenses occurred, according to the ADA.
“I am fortunate to work for Will Ramsay. He seeks truth and justice above all else, and he trusts me and Mrs. [Jodi] Cox to take difficult cases like this to trial. This was not an easy case. The crimes occurred 18 years ago, and there was no medical or scientific evidence. Fortunately for our case, but unfortunately for society, Mr. Conley has spent nearly two decades sexually abusing children without being held accountable. He is the most prolific child molester that I have ever encountered in my legal career,” Harris said.
While Conley was charged with only four counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, said to have occurred in Cooper, others testified to offenses they alleged Conley also committed.
Friday morning, two young women were among witnesses who testified earlier in the week to the charges Conley was accused of as well as other alleged sexual acts, including two instances in which Conley allegedly exposed himself to them when they were juveniles. They described the impact that had on them. The mothers of four girls Conley was accused of exposing himself to also testified Friday morning to the impact they say it had on their daughters as well as them.
The victim named in the charges testified Friday morning. She said she was 8 or 9 when she was sexually assaulted by Conley, but is 28 now. She said she was scared, uncomfortable, was unsure what to do and didn’t feel safe after being sexually abused by Conley. She said she still has control issues and a hard time trusting people, including family.
“I carry guilt, guilt for the other victims. Had I been believed, these things wouldn’t have happened to them. Now that the truth is out, everyone knows, I don’t carry the burden. It’s not mine to carry,” the victim in the sexual assault cases said.
However, she said she felt compelled to testify.
“I couldn’t allow another child to go through that, not what I went through, what everyone else went through. I had to put a stop to it,” she said.
An 18-year-old California resident said while she did not want to testify, she did so because “he deserves to be in prison. The things he’s done are wrong. No one else deserves to go through that.”
When asked by ADA Jodi Cox how she felt the day after Johnny Conley “molested” her, the California teen admitted to being confused and did not know what to say or who to tell about what Conley had done to her. She didn’t say anything about it until she was 13; she told her mom and a counselor.
The California teen said she was testifying because, “I deserve justice.” She said she still has to deal with it daily, and sometimes wakes up from nightmares about what was done to her.
A California mother testified Conley exposed himself to her daughter when Conley lived in California several years ago. Her daughter is now in college, but was about 8 at the time Conley was alleged to have exposed himself to her. The mother said upon being told, authorities were notified. Their church preacher was made aware and Conley was asked to step down as an Awanas leader. Conley moved back to Texas about 3 months later.
The California mom said it made her daughter “more guarded, not easy to trust.” She said she testified “so it never happens again. He’s a predator.”
One of Conley’s neighbors alleged Conley exposed himself in 2018 through a fence to her 15-year-old daughter and another teen, who were swimming in their back yard. The Cooper woman said it has made her daughter paranoid about going outside, that Conley will be watching her through the fence between their yards. The mom said it makes her more anxious when her daughter is outside.
The Cooper woman said her family had decided if Conley was not found guilty during the trial that they’d sell their home and move so they would not have to worry about their neighbor when they are in their back yard.
Another mother Friday morning in her testimony alleged Conley exposed himself and masturbated in front of her daughter when she was 5 years old. Afterward, the woman said her daughter would no longer sleep in her own room, didn’t want to go outside and wouldn’t walk to the car without either her mother of father by her side. She said her daughter’s innocence was taken away that day, and she testified to “make sure he didn’t do it to others.”
“They put their lives on hold to see justice done, and ensure that this defendant never hurts another child. Without their courage, bravery, and sacrifice, this case probably would not have ended in a guilty verdict,” said Harris.