MONCKS CORNER, SC (WCSC) - It took a Berkeley County jury just twenty minutes to find Craig Keeling, 47, guilty of committing or attempting a lewd act on a child. Circuit Court Judge Kristi Lea Harrington, who presided over the two day trial, sentenced Keeling to twelve years suspended to eight years in prison and four years probation.
On November 26, 2009, the minor victim, a seven year old child, reported a sexual assault at a Thanksgiving gathering in Goose Creek that was attended by extended family of about fifty people. At the time of the incident, the victim and Keeling were on the front porch of her grandmother's house when the defendant put his hand inside the victim's pants and began fondling her. He was interrupted when the child's uncle observed the incident from a window inside the house and banged on the window to get his attention.
When Keeling realized he was caught, he attempted to flee the scene, but other family members prevented him from leaving until police. Keeling was a first-time guest at the gathering, and the child and her family had never met him before.
Both the eyewitness and the child were among those who testified during the trial. Assistant Solicitor Anne Williams of the Ninth Circuit Solicitor's Special Victim's Unit said, "We are pleased with the verdict and thankful that the victim and her family can move past this tragedy. This child showed enormous courage throughout the incident and the trial."
Keeling had been previously convicted twice for burglary and for breach of trust, and was still on probation at the time of the incident.