Father of young SC girl sexually assaulted angry about plea deal that includes no jail time

Edwin Burdell O'Neil Jr. (Rock Hill Police Department)
Edwin Burdell O'Neil Jr. (Rock Hill Police Department)

ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) — A Rock Hill man accused of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor is scheduled to appear in a York County courtroom Friday morning and the victim’s father is angry about why Edwin O’Neil is going to court.

The case started last year in Rock Hill.

Mark Whittington said his daughter, who was 7 years old at the time, was at O’Neil’s house. He said O’Neil was a family friend and his daughter was spending time with his grand kids.

“What she said was they built tents and stuff inside the house – little forts and stuff like that and before she went to bed one night he came down and laid beside her,” Whittington said. “Laid beside her and starting grabbing onto her and touching her and everything else.

Rock Hill police investigated and arrested O’Neil. Court documents say O’Neil assaulted the child and was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. That charge carries a possible sentence of 25 years to life.

Whittington said the assault took an emotional toll on his little girl.

“She was always my right hand man. She was always with me and then when it all came out she started distancing herself from me,” he said. “When it finally came out she didn’t want to be in the room by herself with me. She didn’t want to be in a room by herself with any man and always had to have her mom, or my fiancé, or somebody in there with the male.”

Whittington said “she been through therapy because of it and for a while – up until probably a couple of months ago – every time she went by his house she would just curl up in the car and start screaming.”

Whittington said he was expecting the case to eventually go to trial.

Instead, he said the Solicitor’s Office informed this week that there’s a plea agreement.

WBTV contacted the Solicitor’s Office and was told that O’Neil is scheduled to be in court Friday morning but the prosecutor said she’s not at liberty to say exactly why. She said she cannot say if there’s a plea agreement.

Whittington said the prosecutor told him the charge was reduced to “assault and battery in the first-degree with up to five years probation. No jail time. No registry. No nothing but they did tell if he does it again then it would be automatic child molestation.”

Whittington said he was not happy with the news.

“I don’t feel that it’s just at all and I’m going to my grave making sure that she gets the justice that she deserves,” he said. “For somebody that sick to be able to walk with no – with just a slap on the wrist or something stupid like that that’s just telling me our government is done – there’s no hope” Whittington said.

He said he plans to speak out against the plea agreement in court Friday.

“It just makes me sick to my stomach” he said.

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