Pender man sentenced for sexually assaulting multiple children

Haywood Elwood Garner (Photo: Pender County Sheriff's Office)

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A Pender County man has been sentenced to at least 16 years behind bars for sexually assaulting multiple children.

Haywood Elwood Garner, 71, pleaded guilty to statutory sex offense charges and indecent liberties with a child in court Tuesday.

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If released from prison, he will be required to register as a sex offender.

Between 1993 and 2006, Garner sexually assaulted five child victims, all of whom told authorities at the time of their assaults. Pender County Sheriff’s Office detectives investigated but did not have enough evidence at the time to pursue charges. In 2016, a sixth child victim was identified, and the investigation was reopened by Detective John Leatherwood.

According to the warrant, Garner exposed himself at a Charlotte grocery store in front of a four-year-old in 2015.

Det. Leatherwood was able to connect all of the assaults and identify similarities between the victims, leading to Garner’s arrest in 2016.

He has been in jail since his arrest.

According to District Attorney Ben David, many of the victims, some well into their 30s, were present for Tuesday’s plea and gave victim impact statements to the court before sentencing.

“The victims in this case finally had their day in court and were able to bring legal closure to a difficult period of their lives. It is my hope that their healing will continue now that they have had a chance to speak out against this predator. We will continue to pursue these cases, no matter how old and no matter what the challenges,” David wrote in a news release.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Smith, who handled the case, said, “We thank Det. Leatherwood for his relentless pursuit of the truth. We would not have been able to secure a conviction without his determination and the bravery of the many women who came forward and were willing to testify against their abuser.”