Circuit Judge Christopher L. Schmidt on Friday sentenced a 77-year-old Diamondhead man to 45 years in prison with no chance of parole for multiple counts of child molestation.
Harry Lynn Trest “was found guilty of four counts of sexual battery and four counts of touching a child for lustful purposes after a five-day trial in Hancock County last week,” District Attorney W. Crosby Parker said in a statement Tuesday. “The jury deliberated approximately two hours before returning their verdict Friday evening.”
Waveland police arrested Harry Trest in February 2019, charging him with “four counts of sexual battery, four counts of child molestation and four counts of dissemination of sexually-oriented material to a child,” Waveland Police Chief Mike Prendergast said at the time.
Waveland P.D. had been “contacted by a family member of the victims who advised the minor victims had disclosed the sexual abuse,” Parker said. “The initial disclosure was made to the children’s mother after the children returned to South Carolina from a visit with family in Waveland during the Christmas holidays. The Waveland Police Department then scheduled a forensic interview of the children which led to additional disclosures that Trest had committed the sexual acts of molestation on them over a period of years.”
The victims in the case were both girls under the age of 10, authorities said, and the abuse allegedly occurred over a four-year span. After Trest was arrested, "At least four additional victims from two other states have come forward with new allegations," Waveland Investigator Jamie Nelson said at the time.
"This spans back into the early '90s and what's sad is, they were all very young, between the ages of five and 13 when it happened," Nelson said, and Trest was in a position of trust for all of the alleged victims.
Trest, a Laurel native, has lived in several other states over the years, Prendergast said, including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and South Carolina.
During the trial last week, a counselor for the victims testified that they had been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that they had disclosed several different types of behaviors, fears and physiological symptoms that were “consistent with sexual abuse,” Parker said.
“The investigation of the Waveland Police Department led to a search for other potential victims of sexual abuse by the Defendant,” said ADA Chris Daniel who prosecuted the case with ADA Alison Baker. “Investigators located a relative in Ohio who reported and ultimately testified at trial that Trest had also molested her more than fifteen years ago under similar circumstances.”
“I cannot begin to imagine the depravity that lies within a man’s heart in order to get some type of sexual gratification by touching a young defenseless child,” Schmidt said during sentencing on Friday. “There are people who appear before me every day and every week who stand before the court guilty of a felony, and there are many of those people for whom I have sympathy for the choices they have made. You do not fall within that category.”
“The conviction in this case resulted from months of outstanding investigative work on the part of the Waveland Police Department and the courage of the victims to come forward,” Parker said. “This sentence provides an appropriate penalty for this Defendant based on the horrific crimes in this case and provides accountability and justice. Hopefully this conviction and sentence will also assist the victims in their healing.”