A woman in Richmond, Texas is now behind bars after allowing her teen daughter to marry a man more than three decades her senior.
Last week, Cherry Payton, 43, was convicted and sentenced in a Fort Bend County court to 30 years in prison.
Payton allowed her 13-year-old daughter to regularly perform sexual acts with a 47-year-old man, claiming it was “a normal part of their religious beliefs.” The woman was charged for continuous sexual abuse of a young child.
In 2017, prosecutors revealed that during a routine checkup, the teen told her doctor that she was sexually active with “her husband” and mentioned him being 47. Payton was present for the doctor’s appointment and told the physician that she had given her consent, stating it was perfectly fine according to their religious beliefs.
Reports show that detectives did not find any marriage records to back up Payton’s claims. The mother allegedly said the marriage was based on their Hebrew Israelite faith.
Days later, the girl’s 47-year-old husband, Steven Carty, was arrested and later sentenced to 22 years in prison for aggravated sexual assault and 20 years for sexual assault.
Charann Thompson was a lead prosecutor in Carty’s 2017 trial. Thompson said, “In Texas, when a 47 year-old man engages in sexual acts with a 13 year-old, it’s a crime, even if he insists on calling it a covenant. This case was about getting justice for a child who was convinced that the abuse she endured was her religious obligation. The defendant wanted to make this case about his religious beliefs and that was never the issue.”
During the investigation, prosecutors learned that the child was married to the almost 50-year-old man for nearly a year before officials were notified. Prosecutors added that evidence showed Payton used a completely different religion to sexually abuse the victim as well.
Texas state law specifies that a person must be 18 years old to be legally married, however, there are ways for minors as young as 16 to obtain a marriage license.
Jessica Ramos, a prosecutor working the case, said, “Although the child victim, in this case, was failed by her mother time and time again, she was surrounded in the courtroom by a strong support system.” She continued, “We are grateful to her adoptive mother, her court advocate, her CASA, and the caseworkers from Child Protective Services that supported the child throughout this investigation and trial.”