By Shelley Grieshop
A 49-year-old St. Marys man faces life in prison for allegedly raping several area children.
James R. Thaxton Jr., formerly of 216 S. Vine St., was indicted on 11 counts of rape involving about a half dozen youngsters from the St. Marys area. The alleged incidents occurred between December 2003 and September 2005, the indictment states.
Last week Thaxton pleaded not guilty to the first-degree felony charges in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court in Wapakoneta. Thaxton, who is incarcerated on a $500,000 bond, is expected to change his plea during a May 1 hearing. He is represented in the case by court-appointed attorney Mark S. Weller.
Four of the rape counts carry the possibile sentence of life in prison, according to Auglaize County Prosecutor Ed Pierce. The life sentences could be imposed on Thaxton because some of the victims were under 10 years of age and others were younger than 13 years old and force was used, Pierce added.
St. Marys Police Chief Greg Foxhoven said his department began its investigation into the alleged rapes in December after receiving a tip from another county department. Details of the charges against Thaxton have not been revealed by authorities, in part to protect the identities of the young victims. When the 11-count indictment was served on Thaxton last month, he was in prison serving time for an escape conviction in Auglaize County. Common Pleas Judge Frederick Pepple initially ordered Thaxton to remain at the local jail while the rape case is pending but recently overturned that ruling and sent Thaxton back to prison until the May hearing.
Conditions of Thaxton's bond set by Pepple include having no contact with any minors, including his own children, and an order to undergo testing for venereal disease and AIDS, a common mandate in cases involving sexual assault.