Jury finds Trafalgar man guilty of child molestation

A Trafalgar man was convicted of child molestation following six hours of jury deliberation Thursday.

Carl M. Hendrickson, 54, was found guilty of one count of child molestation, a Level 4 felony, Thursday night following a three-day jury trial in Johnson County Superior Court 3. The jury deliberated for six hours before reaching their verdict, according to the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office.

He was also charged with a second count of child molestation as a Level 4 felony, but the jury found him not guilty of this count.

Hendrickson was charged in March 2021 after a child reported Hendrickson had inappropriately touched her repeatedly while tickling her. The child said she does not like it when Hendrickson tickles her because he “takes it too far.”

She also said he would touch her over and under her clothes, according to court documents.

In an interview with Trafalgar police, Hendrickson was very nervous and stressed in his body language and voice. He was breathing rapidly and clenching his fists together, court documents said.

When asked if he ever put his hand down the child’s pants for a prolonged period of time, he said, “I don’t rape kids.”

Hendrickson mentioned during the interview that he had similarly tickled a second child. Police interviewed that child as well, and the second child said he inappropriately touched her as well, according to court documents.

In court on Thursday, prosecutors criticized Hendrickson’s actions and his explanations for the incidents. He had told police he touched one of the children accidentally, said Brianna Acker, deputy prosecutor.

But the child had said otherwise, and Acker asked the jury to find Hendrickson guilty of the charges.

“When you return a verdict of guilty, you won’t be telling him anything he didn’t already know,” she said.

Michael Kyle, Hendrickson’s attorney, brought up the lack of physical evidence and inconsistency with the children’s statements about where the incidents took place. Hendrickson was adamant he hadn’t been inappropriate with the children during an interview with police, Kyle said during closing arguments.

Kyle also told jurors prosecutors hadn’t proven Hendrickson did it beyond a reasonable doubt, as they hadn’t proven there was a sexual intent to his actions. Additionally, there were eight other people at the home during the incidents and no one had said they saw it, he said.

“It’s uncomfortable, but the state didn’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” Kyle said.

Deputy Prosecutor Carrie Miles, who is chief of the Sex and Domestic Violence Crimes Division at the prosecutors’ office, said in her closing arguments that Hendrickson had groomed the children. Hendrickson had told the children what he did was a “tickle game,” she said.

“He never expected them to tell,” Miles said.

There was not a legitimate reason for Hendrickson to touch the children over and over again, and prosecutors do not know what he could’ve done after the incidents, Miles said.

“We don’t have to prove what room it happened in, we have to prove they were touched,” Miles said.

After the guilty verdict was reached, Miles said she was pleased with how it turned out.

“I am pleased our team effort ended with justice for the victims through a guilty verdict on a major felony,” she said.

Hendrickson faces up to 12 years in prison for the charge. However, he could face more time in prison as prosecutors have filed for a repeat sex offender enhancement. This is based on a separate molestation conviction from 1993, and it could put Hendrickson in prison for up to six more years — a total of 18 years, prosecutors say.

“Everyone who worked so hard to bring justice to our victims is to be commended,” Johnson County Prosecutor Lance Hamner said. “And I particularly commend the brave victims in this case for being willing to come forward and tell their story.”

Hendrickson’s sentencing is set for April 6, though the date may be subject to change due to witness availability and the pending resolution of the enhancement matter, prosecutors say.

Non-emergency help dealing with sexual assault resources is available at Franklin-based ASSIST Indiana at 317-739-4456. For a complete list of resources from the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking, visit icesaht.org/get-help/. For emergency help call or text 911 to report the crime.