Cherry Payton, 43, was convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a young child and sentenced in a Fort Bend County court last week to 30 years in prison, according to the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors said that in 2017, the girl admitted to her doctor that she was sexually active with “her husband,” who she said was 47 years old. Payton, who was also at the doctor’s office, said the girl was married with her consent and the marriage was a part of her religious beliefs.
Prosecutors discovered that Payton allowed the victim to be married for nearly a year before the illicit marriage came to the attention of authorities. They also had evidence that Payton had sexually abused the victim herself under the guise of a different religion.
While a person must be 18 years old to legally be married in Texas, there are certain exceptions that allow minors who are at least 16 years of age to marry.
“Although the child victim in this case was failed by her mother time and time again, she was surrounded in the courtroom by a strong support system,” prosecutor Jessica Ramos said. “We are grateful to her adoptive mother, her court advocate, her CASA, and the caseworkers from Child Protective Services that supported the child throughout this investigation and trial.”