Jury finds Ardmore man guilty of lewd molestation, not guilty of rape

Sierra Rains
Dustin Wayne Hayes

After three days listening to testimony and around four hours of deliberation, a Carter County jury returned a split verdict in a lewd acts and rape trial last week.

On Feb. 6, the jury found Dustin Wayne Hayes, 37, of Ardmore, guilty on two counts of lewd molestation to a child under 16. However, the jury found Hayes not guilty on one count of rape in the first degree and one count of attempted rape in the first degree.

The jury recommended a sentence of three years on each count of lewd molestation. When Hayes is released from prison he will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Formal sentencing is set for March 4.

Assistant District Attorney Melissa Handke represented the state of Oklahoma and criminal defense attorney Jason May represented Hayes.

In a press release recapping the trial, Handke said Hayes was convicted for lewd acts that occurred between January 2008 and December 2014 when the victims were between the ages of five and 10.

Both minor children testified about how Hayes touched them inappropriately, Handke said. One of the victims told the jury that Hayes had raped her repeatedly between January 2008 and December 2014 and another said Hayes tried to rape her but was unsuccessful.

Mikinzie Price, the executive director for Sarah’s Project, was the forensic interviewer on the case in 2009 and 2011. Price took the stand to explain why some children wait to come forward and the shame that they can feel.

Ardmore Police Department Detective Landon Gary also testified about his investigation into Hayes and how he located a third victim in 2009, Handke said in the press release. The third victim testified at the trial and told the jury she had been raped by Hayes while at his home.

The third victim reportedly told her mother about the incident when she got home. A second, pending felony case against Hayes involving the third victim is expected to be tried on the May jury docket in front of a different jury panel.

Hayes’s attorney, Jason May, said he is happy that his client was found not guilty on the two more serious counts and that the three years recommendation is much better than any plea offer that had been received. “So I can’t really call it a win, but it’s pretty close,” he said.

In the press release, Handke thanked the partner agencies that worked on the case, including Sara’s Project, the Family Shelter, the Department of Human Services and the Ardmore Police Department.

“Many agencies and individuals devoted long hours to bring these victims justice,” Handke said, extending extra appreciation to Detective Landon Gary, Mikinzie Price, and the state’s victim and witness team of Mariah Coble and Cassie Hightower for the “countless hours” they all put into the case.

“We are pleased with the verdict and respect the jury’s decision,” Handke said in the press release. “This case should prove to all sexual assault victims that justice delayed is not justice denied. I look forward to prosecuting the pending felony case against the defendant on the next jury docket in May.”