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A 44-year-old man was sentenced to at least 54 years in prison after a jury on Tuesday found him guilty of raping a 14-year-old girl in Charlotte in 2017.

Titus Smith was tried in Superior Court on charges of first-degree statutory rape of a child, first-degree sex offense with a child, and indecent liberties with a child.

After deliberating for less than 20 minutes, the jury found him guilty on all charges. Judge George C. Bell imposed the sentence and ordered Smith to register as a sex offender once his prison sentence is completed.

According to prosecutors, in 2017, the then-14-year-old victim came home from school with a male friend. During this time, her mother was at work. Smith, who lived with the family, returned to the home and discovered the victim and her friend. 

When the boy left, the victim was afraid she would get in trouble for having him over while her mother was away.  Smith, taking advantage of the opportunity, “exerted his power and sexually assaulted the victim,” the Mecklenburg prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

When Smith was done, he told the victim, “Keep this our little secret. Pinky promise.” Then, he left.

The victim called a friend, who contacted the victim’s mother. The police were called, and a sexual assault exam, conducted at a hospital, found DNA evidence that was later matched to Smith.

The victim, now 19, testified against Smith. Her friend, now serving in the U.S. Air Force, flew from his post to Charlotte to testify.

Jalon is a general assignment reporter for QCity Metro. He is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and an avid sports fan. (jalon@qcitymetro.com)

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