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Problem with indictment halts Renfrow trial

By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
April 13, 2001
A faulty indictment has delayed the trial of a Meridian man accused of raping a 3-year-old girl.
Harland Craig Renfrow, 39, was to go to trial Monday. However, when preparing for the case, officials with the district attorney's office discovered a problem with the original indictment returned by a November grand jury.
Investigators with the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department at first charged Renfrow with capital rape two days after the June 10, 2000 attack. A grand jury later returned an indictment against Renfrow for statutory rape.
The child, now four years old, was transported to University Medical Center in Jackson shortly after the attack, and has undergone two surgeries since that time.
Lauderdale County District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell said he has since learned the statutory rape indictment was improper.
Mitchell said he wasn't sure what went wrong with the presentation of the case, or why attorneys did not know the specifics of the case when presenting it to the grand jury in November. Sheriff's investigators disclosed use of the "foreign object" at the onset of the case in June.
The sexual battery case will be presented to the July grand jury, he said.
Mitchell said the sexual battery charge can carry the same penalty a life sentence as a rape charge because of the age of the child. The difference lies in that Renfrow, who has been incarcerated since his June arrest, may now be free to post bond and be released.
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said he is not sure when the sexual battery charges will be made, but he will seek a high bond in the case.
In the meantime, Renfrow will remain in 23-hour lockdown at the Lauderdale County Detention Facility. Renfrow was segregated from the jail's general population two weeks after his June 13 arrest after another inmate, Michael Dock, allegedly threw a cooler at him. The injury to Renfrow's head required stitches.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.

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