Owner of Jernigan Sand and Gravel, faces a charge of aggravated rape

Grand jury indicts 4 in MindenAllegations include rape, extortion and obstruction of justice.MINDEN, IL – A Webster grand jury Tuesday indicted three Minden business people and a former city councilman as a result of a monthslong investigation into the reported rape of a 9-year-old girl and a subsequent attempt to cover up the alleged crime. The charges revolve around allegations that Minden businessman Ronnie Jernigan, 55, raped the unidentified girl then reportedly was blackmailed by his ex-wife and another man when they discovered an audiotape of the incident. Jernigan, owner of Jernigan Sand and Gravel, faces a charge of aggravated rape. He is accused of sexually assaulting the girl who, along with her mother, lived with him part of last year, according to Webster Sheriff Ted Riser. The grand jury indicted Jernigan’s ex-wife, Cathy Jernigan, 50, and James Harrington Jr., the 42-year-old owner of Harrington’s Communications and another cellular telephone and paging business, on one count each of extortion and obstruction of justice. Former Minden District D Councilman Michael Roy, 30, was indicted on a charge of obstruction of justice. All were booked into Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center, where only Ronnie Jernigan remained Tuesday evening. He was being held on a $300,000 bond. Ronnie Jernigan was arrested in January on a charge of molestation of a juvenile, Riser said. District Attorney Schuyler Marvin removed himself from prosecution of the case because he at one time represented Cathy Jernigan, Riser said. So the case was turned over to the state attorney general’s office. During a subsequent investigation, Webster sheriff’s deputies learned that Cathy Jernigan and Harrington, her business partner, reportedly found an audiotape in Ronnie Jernigan’s truck that allegedly incriminates him in the assault on the girl. Cathy Jernigan and Harrington are accused of telling Ronnie Jernigan they would destroy the recording if he would sign over his one-fourth interest in Harrington’s business. Cathy Jernigan and Ronnie Jernigan were finalizing their divorce at that time, Riser said. “They knew what was going on with the girl … and they said they would destroy the tape and they did,” Riser said. Authorities also allege that Roy, a Citizens Bank employee, allowed Cathy Jernigan to remove evidence from a safe deposit box at the bank without signing in and out. Roy, a one-term Minden councilman, chose not to seek re-election in April and served until May. Mayor Pro Tem Magaline Quarles was surprised by news of Roy’s arrest. “Michael appeared to be such an honest person. He spoke his mind. … But he always practiced fair play with me on the council.” The Times was unable to contact Roy, Cathy Jernigan and Harrington on Tuesday night. Telephone listings for Roy and Cathy Jernigan have been disconnected. No number was listed for Harrington.

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