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Police in Alabama said Tuesday that a 5-year-old girl was sexually assaulted while her mother worked as a prostitute in another room.
The girl's family members contacted authorities after she reported being touched inappropriately, Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid said.
The girl's mother told investigators she was in a man's bedroom while her daughter was in the living room with Orlando Eugene Howard, 51, the night of Dec. 8.
The woman told police she went to check on the girl when she heard her crying, according to an affidavit.
The woman told investigators she found Howard on his knees and her daughter said he tried to penetrate her, according to an affidavit. The girl gave authorities additional details in an interview, according to an affidavit.
The Associated Press doesn't generally identify victims of sexual assault and isn't naming the mother to avoid identifying the daughter.
"She's been real strong coming forward with us and coming forward in the interview, so I don't want it to haunt her any more than it's already going to," Reid said.
The 34-year-old woman didn't call authorities and the girl's grandmother, who is her legal guardian according to court records, wasn't informed of the incident until the next day, investigators have said. The girl's mother isn't allowed to have her daughter without being supervised, police said in an affidavit.
Howard's court-appointed attorney, Thomas Thrash, said his client denies the allegations.
"He denies any contact with the child," Thrash said, adding that he didn't want to downplay the seriousness of the alleged incident. "This is a very sad and disheartening event that has been reported," he said.
Howard is in the Jefferson County jail on $120,000 bond. A judge denied his motion for temporary release to attend the funeral of his son, who he said was killed in a convenience store robbery.
Howard's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 19. He is charged with two counts of sodomy. Court records show Howard has in the past pleaded guilty to failing to register as a sex offender and also pleaded guilty in a 1985 rape case.
The girl's mother also faces child abuse charges and is free on bond according to court records. Her preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 14.
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