KENTON, Ohio (WCMH) — A jury convicted a Hardin County man Tuesday in the kidnapping and raping of a 7-year-old girl last November.

Charles Eugene Castle was found guilty on several counts including kidnapping, rape, attempted murder, and other charges.

Castle was convicted of kidnapping the child from her home overnight on Nov. 11, 2021, and raping her in his nearby camper. The six-day trial in Hardin County Common Pleas Court included testimony from a child abuse pediatrician, a social worker, several forensic scientists, and the 7-year-old victim herself.

“She’s (the victim) got some issues that’s going to take time, patience,” Hardin County prosecutor Brad Bailey said after the verdict. “The parents know they have a long way to go to bring her back to normal. Our department was emotionally involved in this case very seriously from the beginning and the girl’s a cute little girl, so that’s what makes me emotional.”

After a 911 call triggered a two-day search for the 7-year-old, the girl was found alone, locked in the basement of an abandoned farmhouse on County Road 180 that prosecutors linked to Castle.

Throughout the trial, Bailey argued Castle, then a friend of the victim’s father, took her from her home in the middle of the night, raped her, and tried to conceal her location from her parents.

“His purpose wasn’t to reunite her with her family, which he’s known for years,” Bailey said. “His purpose was to make sure she didn’t remain alive.”

Both Bailey and the 7-year-old, who testified in court via video conferencing, told the jury that Castle took her to his camper a few blocks away, put tape around her hands and mouth, and wrapped an electrical cord around her neck so tight that she passed out.

“A child of this age can’t defend herself so to speak,” Bailey said Tuesday. “She’s very honest, very literal, as most children of this age; she doesn’t know certain ramifications of what she might have done or not have done therefore the adults, in this case, are good.”

Castle’s defense attorney Elizabeth Smith, however, contended that police arrested the wrong man, finding an “easy target” and “easy suspect” in Castle within hours of the 7-year-old going missing. The defense did not call any witnesses to the stand, and Castle himself did not testify.

Smith declined to speak after the verdicts were read.

Castle was found guilty on all 16 counts:

  • Seven counts of kidnapping
  • One count of rape
  • One count of attempted murder
  • One count of assault
  • One count of endangering children
  • One count of burglary
  • Three counts of tampering with evidence
  • One count of breaking and entering

Castle was initially indicted on 17 charges related to the case, but prosecutors dropped one count of possession of criminal tools on Monday.

Bailey said Castle remains the only suspect connected with this case, despite what rumors may be claiming.

“I want to emphasize, for the record, there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the parents were involved in this case whatsoever,” he said. “I’ve read the media post whoever is making these baseless statements should stop.”

Castle is scheduled to be sentenced July 26. He faces the possibility of life in prison.