child sexual assault

Ryan Benk / WJCT News

Today in Jacksonville, six alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse announced they are suing their former martial arts instructor decades after the alleged abuse occurred.

The suit would have impossible before a new Georgia law went into effect.


As the nation marks Child Abuse Prevention Month, several Northeast Florida organizations, including the YMCA, the Monique Burr Foundation, the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and WJCT, have partnered to form the Darkness to Light Stewards for Children Coalition. The group is working to train 50,000 adults to develop the skills to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. We speak with Tammy Miller, VP of Risk Management, and Linda Burr, Lead Trainer, for YMCA of Florida’s First Coast.

Heather Leigh / News4Jax

A former Duval County teacher has been found guilty of seven counts of sexual battery against three young girls.

Two girls testified Wednesday that Michael Worrell, 64, sexually assaulted them. A third victim was not available to testify, and her father told the court she may have run away three weeks ago.

Worrell was arrested arrested in September 2012. He has been held without bond since his arrest.

Zeljko Causevic, Vibrio vulnificus and 'Jeopardy!' are in the headlines today.

Florida Department of Corrections

STARKE, Fla. (AP) — A man convicted of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl in 1994 is set to be executed.


Florida lawmakers want to toughen the state’s sexual predator laws and they’ve said the reforms will be the centerpiece of this year’s legislative session.

Karen Feagins / WJCT

At a hearing Wednesday afternoon at Jacksonville City Hall, state legislators, law enforcement officials and mental health professionals discussed what new legislation might protect children from sexual offenders and predators. 

Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, called the hearing following the June abduction and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

The man accused of Perrywinkle's murder is a repeat sex offender who had been released from jail only about a month before her death.

A legislative hearing is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at Jacksonville City Hall on state laws related to sex offenders. The hearing is open to the public and experts, including officials representing state law enforcement and child services agencies, will be in attendance.

The meeting comes only a few months after the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle in Jacksonville. 

Prosecutors say Donald James Smith, a 56-year-old sex offender who had been released from jail only about a month before he allegedly killed Perrywinkle, has a long history of preying on young girls.  

Smith pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, sexual battery and murder. In July, State Attorney Angela Corey said she would seek the death penalty in the case.

Tomorrow's hearing is sponsored by Florida State Representative Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, and it comes as an online petition to enact "Cherish's Law" has garnered over 2,200 signatures.

The petition was created by a group called "Justice For Cherish" formed, according to their Facebook page, in August.

While the group's Facebook page and petition site offer few details on what changes they would propose, they do appear to advocate longer prison sentences for repeat sexual offenders.

"How many more children do we have to lose before you keep the repeat offenders locked up for the rest of their lives?" the petition asks. "The only reform for a repeat predator is life."

What new laws or changes to existing laws would you propose to prevent sexual assault? Tell us on our Facebook page or on Twitter @WJCTJax.