Mark Lukehart

Mark Lukehart

A Canton resident, who was once an educator in another county, has received a 22-year prison sentence on charges that he sexually abused a child relative, Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace announced last week.

According to the district attorney and court documents:

Mark Richard Lukehart, 62, entered a guilty plea May 22 to multiple counts of aggravated child molestation and other related sexual charges.

These charges stem from incidents involving a child who was under the age of 16 and a relative of the defendant. Lukehart molested the child on multiple occasions over the course of a year. The child eventually disclosed the abuse to a suicide hotline, prompting Canton Police to conduct an investigation.

“Basic human decency dictates that you do not have sex with a child,” Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Katie Gropper, who prosecuted the case, said in a statement. “This defendant, who was once a schoolteacher in another county, took advantage of an innocent child and sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions, pushing her to a point where she contemplated taking her own life.”

During the plea hearing, the child victim described how the defendant’s actions led her to attempt suicide and self-harm. She shared that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, frequently has flashbacks, and continues to have issues with trust. She asked the defendant, “Why did you rape me? Do you hate me?”

Cherokee County Superior Court Judge Tony Baker accepted Lukehart’s negotiated guilty plea and sentenced him to 22 years to serve in confinement with no possibility for parole, followed by life on probation. Upon his release from prison, Lukehart is prohibited from contacting the victim or the victim’s family and must adhere to sex offender special conditions.

“Our hearts go out to the young victim who has a long road ahead to recover from these crimes,” Wallace said. “While no outcome can restore this child’s innocence, this sentence will prevent Mark Lukehart from hurting any more children in the future.”

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Shannon Ballew is the managing editor at the Cherokee Tribune and the Cherokee Ledger-News. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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