Rape defendant enters plea, gets year in jail
By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
March 29, 2001
A Meridian man accused of breaking into a Lauderdale County home and raping an 11-year-old girl as she slept pleaded guilty Wednesday to lustful touching of a child.
The plea agreement was negotiated by the Lauderdale County District Attorney's Office.
Wilbert Edward Jennings, 40, of 8697 Kings Road in Bailey, will serve one year in prison. Circuit Judge Larry Roberts accepted Jennings' plea then sentenced him to 15 years in prison with 14 years suspended and five years of post-release supervision. Should Jennings violate the conditions of his post-release supervision, he could be re-arrested and required to serve the remainder of his full sentence with the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
Jennings was originally charged with capital rape in connection with the March 9, 2000, assault. A grand jury later returned an indictment against him for statutory rape. Jennings had been scheduled for trial Wednesday but Circuit Court officials said the victim's mother had reservations about allowing her daughter to testify.
Investigators said Jennings entered the girl's home through a window and attacked her. The girl fled to her grandmother's room when she was able to break free. The grandmother found Jennings crouched outside the home partially nude.
Jennings, who was denied bond after his June 10 arrest, has since remained in custody at the Lauderdale County Detention Facility.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.