SEBRING — A Highlands County jury found Jacob Knowles, 49, guilty last week on seven counts of sexual assault on a child under 12.

“Guilty – all seven life felony counts,” Highlands County Prosecutor John Kromholz said. He is to be sentenced Friday, Kromholz said.

The child’s mother, who met Knowles online in 2013 and moved her four children into his Venus home shortly thereafter, told prosecutor Courtney Lenhart during Knowles’ trial last week that she didn’t believe her daughter when the child repeatedly told her Knowles was “doing nasty things to her.”

She testified that she asked the child to repeat her accusation in front of Knowles, who is at least six feet tall and 49 years old. When the little girl did, Knowles slapped her and yelled at her, the woman told Lenhart.

On another occasion, Knowles took the child on an overnight stay in a Lake Placid motel where he committed sex acts on her overnight, Lenhart told the jury. The child’s mother said Knowles told her he wanted a child in the car with him if police pulled him over. Police were less likely to arrest him without having a license if a child was present, Knowles told her.

The child’s mother said she called Knowles to find out where they were when they weren’t home later that night.

Things began to change when the little girl told her older brother, who was just a few years older than her, what Knowles was doing to her. The mother called police after that, and Highlands County Sheriff’s Special Victims Unit deputies pulled the mother and children from the house. They questioned the children, then arrested the mother for failing to report sexual abuse of a child. She served a short time in jail.

Following Lenhart’s closing remarks, the jury returned the verdict after 34 minutes of deliberation.

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