Parolee charged in Butler, Lowndes rapes
Willie Fred Jenkins, a 39-year-old Greenville native, was arrested and charged with first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy and first-degree kidnapping of a Butler County female on Feb. 1.
Only, according to Butler County authorities, Jenkins should’ve already been behind bars.
In a press conference held Monday afternoon, Butler County sheriff Kenny Harden and Charlotte Tesmer, district attorney for Alabama’s Second Judicial Circuit (which spans Butler, Lowndes and Crenshaw counties) had sharp criticisms of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles for allowing Jenkins, a parolee who was previously serving a life sentence, back into an unwitting community.
In addition to the first-degree rape, sodomy and kidnapping charges, Jenkins was also charged with three counts of rape for sexually assaulting a Butler County woman in Lowndes County, also on Feb. 1.
Tesmer said that the second victim—a female 48-year-old Butler County resident—came forth minutes after Jenkins had turned himself in.
Tesmer added that the second victim was sexually assaulted at two different points across hundreds of acres of Minter hunting land, and then a third time when Jenkins forced her into a vehicle and pulled behind a church along Highway 21.
The two assaults happened within nine hours of each other, with the first occurring in Butler County shortly after midnight and the assault of the second victim in Lowndes County at approximately 9 a.m.
Harden said that neither of these crimes should have occurred, as Jenkins was serving a life sentence for previous charges in Wilcox County. Moreover, barely a week after his release, he was charged again in an incident involving a pair of underage Butler County girls.
“In 2002, he was given a life sentence in Wilcox County and was sent to the penitentiary,” Harden said.
“On Aug. 8, 2016, the parole board paroled him back out onto the streets. On Aug. 16, 2016, we arrested him for two counts of enticing a child for immoral purposes.”
Alabama law defines the charge as a Class C felony to invite or persuade a child younger than 16 to engage in sexual acts (anything from fondling—even over clothing—to having sexual intercourse) in any place, such as a vehicle, office or house. (Al. Code § 13A-6-69)
Jenkins would make bond, however, and later had a hearing in which Butler County investigators testified in the case involving the two underage girls.
“They should’ve looked at his whole history,” Tesmer said. “They should’ve listened to Chief Deputy Sean Klaetsch when he told about his investigation. He talked to witnesses; he talked to these two young women, who were underage. And our office worked that case with him. That case is still pending. We intend to take it to the grand jury, and we expect for the case to be indicted.
“It’s just unimaginable to me that they did not revoke his parole.”
Jenkins’ history includes violent charges dating back to 1996, in which he pleaded guilty to theft of property, escape and burglary charges, the latter of which involved firearms.
In 2002, Jenkins pleaded guilty to a robbery in which a nun working at a health clinic in Pine Apple, Ala., was robbed after stopping to aid three people on the side of the road.
“They took her personal items and her purse,” Tesmer added. “They made her get into her trunk, and then shot several rounds into her trunk and left that area.”
Though wounded, the woman survived the ordeal.
Tesmer said that she has often heard the arguments of parole for those locked away for long periods of time for charges that involve illegal substances or other nonviolent crimes, but she added that Jenkins’ record proved indicative of a violent past.
“He had weapons involved in the original Butler County case back in 1996,” Tesmer said. “He had weapons when he was involved in the case in Wilcox County. And the investigation is showing that he had a weapon in at least one of the rape cases. It’s not a nonviolent person that we’re talking about here, so it’s offensive to me that the board did not revoke his parole.”
Harden added that he has never seen a similar situation in which a parolee with a violent history has ever been granted parole.
“He needs to spend his life sentence in the penitentiary,” Harden said. “If the parole board had done their job, we would not have these four victims that we have now.
“We had no knowledge that he was even coming up for parole because the case actually happened in Wilcox County. But he was living in Butler County—that’s where he’s from. So I think we should’ve been notified that he was possibly coming up for parole, because we would’ve been up there and protested against it.”
Rep. Chris Sells (R-AL 90th District) was also present for Monday’s conference, and he expressed his dismay that a violent criminal could be paroled upon serving 13 years of his life sentence.
“I’m going to do my best to find out what’s happening on the state level, and the state needs to do everything we can to keep these violent criminals behind bars,” Sells said. “And I will pledge that on the state level, I will research this and find out more about what’s going on and why this happened.
“I feel sorry for everybody involved. We’ve got to keep monsters like this off the street. That’s our job as lawmakers, police officers and district attorneys—it’s to put these people away and keep them away from the general public.”
Following his arrest, Jenkins was transported to Lowndes County’s correctional facilities Friday afternoon.
He will be presented to a grand jury on both the two enticing cases from last August as well as the rape, kidnapping and sodomy charges in Butler County and the three counts of rape in Lowndes County.
Tesmer said that a motion has been filed to revoke his bond in the two juvenile cases because he broke the conditions of his bond.
There is a $750,000 bond on the rape case in Butler County, and she requested a $1 million bond for the charges in Lowndes County.
“I can’t control the parole board, but at least I have a hand in it down here,” Tesmer said.
“And certainly, this is not somebody that needs to be on the streets.”