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PA refiles rape charge

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A Bolivar woman faces a felony statutory rape charge for a second time after charges were refiled in a case alleging she had sexual intercourse with a minor in 2018. 

According to online court records, Bethany M. Farr, born in 1992, is charged in Polk County Circuit Court with class D felony second-degree statutory rape, class D felony first-degree endangering the welfare of a child creating substantial risk — first offense, sexual conduct and misdemeanor supplying liquor to a minor. 

Farr was originally indicted on the same charges in January 2019 by a Polk County grand jury. She pleaded not guilty during a February 2019 arraignment.

Earlier this year, the case was set to go to jury trial with 30th Circuit Judge Michael O’Brien Hendrickson presiding. 

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the county, plans changed, Polk County Prosecuting Attorney Ken Ashlock said.   

“We had asked for a continuation, but Hendrickson would not grant it,” Ashlock said. “There was no real plan for how to proceed with a jury in Polk County that I was aware of, and I didn’t feel comfortable trying a case when I didn’t know how it would work.”  

With the threat of COVID-19, Ashlock said he wasn’t comfortable “bringing in 100 potential jurors for this type of case.” 

He said he wasn’t willing to do a “‘trial’ trial just to see how it would work out and put 100 people at risk by coming to a courtroom that wasn’t really prepared for the trial.” 

“So, in the end, I dismissed the case to refile,” he said.   

Ashlock said “a jury trial is hard enough when everything is normal.” 

However, the court’s requirements for COVID-19 add another layer of complication, he said. 

To comply with standards, all jurors must be spaced 6 feet apart and wear masks, Ashlock said. The courthouse must provide cleaning supplies and clean areas frequently, he added. 

While Polk County hasn’t seen a jury trial since the pandemic hit, Ashlock said, a few other area counties have found ways to make it work. 

He said other counties are doing voir dire — the process used by attorneys to select jurors — in a community building before moving to the courthouse for the trial itself. 

“At present, we don’t have a community building to use for this purpose,” Ashlock said. 

He said he’s also had one defense attorney object to holding voir dire in a church building.  

Once a jury is picked, jurors could sit in the audience seating in the courthouse, spreading out and using the entire courtroom for deliberation, Ashlock said.  

He said attorneys would need to use the courthouse’s second courtroom to make a record on issues that come up during trial, a moment when the jurors would normally go to the jury room. 

Ashlock saidhe’s hopeful the county will be able to develop a plan and create a better situation for jurors in the future.

“We do expect to have several trials next year and are working on some possible options to get that done,” he said. 

About the case

The probable cause statement said in November 2018, it was reported to the Bolivar Police Department that Farr had sex with a 16-year-old boy at a residence in the 100 block of East College Street in Bolivar.

The statement said Farr told detectives she and the minor were drunk and had sex. She said this was the only time the two had intercourse. 

Detectives confirmed Farr “was the only adult awake in the residence with several subjects under the age of 18,” the statement said. She told law enforcement she did not stop juveniles at the residence from drinking alcohol. 

The victim and other juveniles present confirmed to detectives that Farr had sexual intercourse with the 16-year-old when they were alone in a laundry room, the statement said.

A summons for a Wednesday, Oct. 7, hearing before Judge John C. Porter has been issued for Farr.

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