Thomas Anthony Morales was charged with statutory rape, abduction, and second-degree kidnapping after a young girl went missing Friday, August 6. The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office arrested Morales after a more than week-long investigation into the kidnapping case.
According to reports, the juvenile, who was not identified because of her age, was reported missing on August 6 but was returned home in the early morning on August 8. The sheriff’s office claimed that it “began an investigation when [the] juvenile was reported missing.” Detectives collected additional information after the child was returned home.
“Alamance County Sheriff’s Office obtained an arrest warrant for Thomas Anthony Morales,” a news release reported Tuesday. It said that “detectives worked with the State Bureau of Investigation and apprehended Mr. Morales in Indian Trail, North Carolina on August 11, 2021.”
The 23-year-old was taken into custody and is now being held at the Alamance County Detention Center. Bail was set at $40,000, according to the sheriff’s office.
The official charges against Thomas Anthony Morales are abduction of children, second-degree kidnapping, and statutory rape of a child. It wasn’t immediately clear how old the victim was. Police have not released any additional information in the case. They have not said if the victim chose to leave her house or if Morales took her by force.
The age of consent is 16 years old in the state of North Carolina. Any individual under the age of 16 can not legally “consent to participation in sexual activity,” according to the “Age of Consent” website. Any individual who participates in sex with children 15 or younger may be prosecuted for statutory rape.
Depending on the severity of the case, Thomas Anthony Morales can face a minimum of 25 years in prison for statutory rape of a person who is 13-15 years old. It wasn’t reported if Morales has legal representation. The date of his next scheduled court appearance was not revealed.
Statutory rape in North Carolina is a serious felony. According to North Carolina law, a mistake of age is not an adequate defense to the charge in the state. Even if the victim lied about her age, the offender can still be penalized under the statute N.C.G.S. 14-27.20.
According to the statute, a person is guilty if they engage in vaginal intercourse or any sexual act with a person 15 years old or younger. If the offense included vaginal intercourse, the statute claims it is “statutory rape.” If other sexual acts are involved but not vaginal intercourse, this is a “statutory sex offense,” under the statute. Both crimes are punished the same.
Despite the severity of the crime, there are limitations provided by the statute. There are different classifications of the statutory rape charge depending on the age of the victim and the age of the offender. In the case of Thomas Anthony Morales, the offender was 23 years old. It’s not clear the exact age of the victim, however, the charges against Morales indicate that the victim is younger than 16 years old.