ALLENDALE, SC (Oct. 23, 2023) – A former Allendale town councilman has been sent to prison for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old relative while she was attending a sleepover.
Earl Morell Jr., 56, pleaded guilty Monday to third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor for sexually assaulting the girl while she was at his Jones Street home in March 2021. Morell’s trial was scheduled to begin later in the day at the Allendale County Courthouse.
“What was supposed to be a fun and carefree sleepover with friends quickly turned into a nightmare for this child,” said Hunter Swanson Simmons of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case. “This assault was traumatizing and continues to haunt this girl.
“With an active prison sentence, Mr. Morell is being held responsible for his actions. I hope it also brings healing and a sense of safety for his victim.”
Morell was to stand trial for second-degree criminal sexual assault, but with the victim’s consent was allowed to plead to a lesser charge. He was sentenced to five years, suspended to two years plus three years’ probation. He also will be placed on the state’s sex-offender registry, and a permanent restraining order forbidding contact with the victim was issued.
The assault occurred in the middle of the night while the girl was sleeping in Morell’s living room in March 2021. In a call to the girl’s parents about two months later, Morell admitted to “sleeping with” her and encouraged them to have her medically examined. They immediately took her to the hospital’s emergency room.
In October 2022, Gov. Henry McMaster signed an executive order suspending Morell for “moral turpitude.”
Circuit Court Judge Thomas L. Hughston Jr. handed down Monday’s sentence.
Simmons is the leader of the Solicitor’s Office Special Victims Unit, which is part of the 14th Circuit Victims Services Center. There, community partners provide critical services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and other crimes against vulnerable people. Help is available to anyone who needs it, even if they are not participating in the investigation or prosecution of a crime. The VSC serves Allendale, Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Colleton counties.
For assistance, call 843-790-6220 or email [email protected].