A 69-year-old Kiln man was sentenced Thursday to 45 years in prison for the sexual battery and molestation of a child under age 13 over the course of more than a year.

After a four-day trial, a Hancock County jury on Thursday found Alex Jackie Pearson guilty of seven counts of sexual battery and molestation. Circuit Judge Christopher L. Schmit sentenced Pearson to 45 years without the benefit of parole or early release.

Hancock County sheriff's deputies arrested Pearson on Oct. 16, 2016, charging him with 21 counts of sexual battery; one count of touching a child for lustful purposes/molesting; and one count of contributing to the delinquency/neglect of a child.

The child was nine years old when the abuse started, officials said.

A family member had contacted the sheriff's office after the child had disclosed the abuse, District Attorney Joel Smith said in a press release Thursday.

"The initial disclosure was made to the child’s mother after she located a sexual device in the child’s bedroom," Smith said. "Inv. Bruce Lilly contacted Hope Haven Child Advocacy Center and obtained a forensic interview of the child which led to additional disclosures, a search warrant, and recovery of substantiating evidence. The victim testified that Pearson had committed multiple sexual acts on her over a period of almost two years. Licensed Professional Counselor Vicki Smith testified that during her interview, the victim disclosed several different types of behavior that were consistent with sexual abuse."

Smith said the investigation led to a nationwide search of other potential victims of sexual abuse by Pearson.

“Investigator Lilly located a woman in a nearby state that reported and ultimately testified at trial that Pearson had also molested her more than 20years ago under similar circumstances,” ADA Chris Daniel -- who prosecuted the case with ADA Alison Baker -- said in the release. “Prior to trial, Pearson attempted to bribe a witness in the case to prevent her from testifying and ‘settle the case within the family’, however, he was rearrested for the bribery attempt, and this evidence was presented against him at trial.”

"He broke my family," the child's mother said in court. "He broke my trust and heart. Alex took my daughter’s innocence and purity that she can never get back.”

“I can’t understand what would cause a person to do such evil acts to a child," Judge Schmidt told Pearson before imposing his sentence. "There are no more reprehensible and immoral acts. She will be forever changed. I can’t change that, but I can sentence you.”

“We are very pleased to see justice rendered today for the years of abuse perpetrated by this defendant," Smith said. "The bravery exhibited by this young lady and the diligence of the investigator led to today’s jury’s verdict.”

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