Three rape charges were filed against a Clarksville man accused of having sexual relations with a 14-year-old autistic girl after he picked her up outside school Oct. 28, a Rutherford County Sheriff’s supervisor said Monday. Suspect William Gilbert Barnett Jr., 36, was charged also with three counts of aggravated sexual battery by Detective Lisa McCallum.
Detective Sgt. Mickey McCullough said Barnett picked up the girl when she got off the school bus about 8 a.m. the morning of Oct. 28, allegedly raped her in his truck and returned her about 4 p.m. to her bus stop after school. The girl’s form of autism “makes her gullible, naïve, innocent and willing to please others,” McCullough said. Barnett met the autistic girl in August. Her parents noticed the exchange and informed Barnett their daughter was only 14 years old. Without the parents’ knowledge, Barnett communicated with their daughter since then by texting. Barnett allegedly instructed the girl by text about meeting her outside the school Oct. 28.
The mother alerted detectives Nov. 1 her daughter was allegedly sexually abused, the sergeant said. The girl underwent a sexual abuse examination at Our Kids clinic in Nashville. During the investigation, School Resource Officer Ward Bates obtained school video showing Barnett’s truck driving around the school parking lot before classes Oct. 28. Latoya Nelson of the Child Advocacy Center conducted a forensic interview with the child to gain information about the event. “Some of these investigations with children are difficult” because the child cannot be questioned in a leading or suggestive manner, McCullough explained.
With the information from the forensic interview, McCullough and McCallum identified Barnett as the suspect and learned he was on parole for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The detectives contacted Detective Chuck Thomas, who is assigned to the U.S. Marshals Task Force. Thomas learned Barnett was supposed to meet with his parole officer Thursday. Thomas, McCallum and Detective Steve Craig arrested Barnett about 6:50 a.m. when he met with his parole officer. Barnett asked for an attorney and refused to give basic information about himself after he was charged and booked into Rutherford County Adult Detention Center. Bond was set at $450,000. A hearing is set Dec. 7 in General Sessions Court. The investigation remains ongoing and McCullough expects more charges. McCallum obtained a search warrant for Barnett’s truck and Craig obtained a subpoena for the victim and Barnett’s cellular telephones.
McCullough said Barnett’s arrest was a team effort between Nelson, Bates and detectives. Nelson “does wonderful forensic interviews for our agency,” McCullough said. Thomas helped locate the suspect while Bates provided the videotape, allowing detectives to get a description of Barnett’s truck. “Everyone worked in concert to get this arrest,” McCullough said.