Bill could take age limit out of child sex abuse statute

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – The statute of limitations in Arkansas could be a thing of the past when it comes to investigating sex abuse against children.

The Smith brothers from Texarkana learned Arkansas’ statute of limitations the hard way. After being sexually molested as children and then turning to the legal system later in life, the brothers found that time doesn’t heal all things.

For nearly three decades, Matt and Marc Smith lived with a secret. Their little league baseball coach in Texarkana molested them. The pain resurfaced in 2011 when Marc began coaching his son in baseball.

“I had actually seen him at the ball field where I was coaching my son. That did initiate some of this,” said Smith.

Richard Roberts coached the Smiths’ baseball team and molested both of them and others in the 1980’s. Once Marc came forward, it appeared to be too late.

“The age for you to come forward before the limitation was 28. Age 28, and these young men were all in their 30’s,” said Rep. Prissy Hickerson from Texarkana.

Under Arkansas law, Roberts could not be charged. Not all hope was lost for the victims. Roberts confessed to crossing state lines with the boys and then federal charges were brought.

“He went in front of the grand jury in August, and he pleaded guilty in November to one count of transporting a minor across state lines,” said Matt Smith.

While the Smiths almost missed their chance at justice, Senate Bill 92 aims to make sure no one else ever will in Arkansas. It would wipe out the age limit in child sex abuse cases.

“So that a prosecution can be commenced at any time once information is brought to authorities,” said Matt Smith.

The bill passed in the House Judiciary Committee and will now go to full house for a vote.