8 News Now reports that 43-year-old Cherry Payton was found guilty of continuous sexual abuse of a young child in Fort Bend County. She claimed that her daughter’s marriage to the 47-year-old Steven Carty was “a normal part of their religious beliefs.”
Authorities first learned of the child’s illegal marriage when she went to her doctor and revealed she was having sex with “her husband” who was 34 years her senior. Payton had accompanied her daughter, telling the doctor that she had consented to the religious union.
At that point, the young teen had been married for almost a year, with Payton saying that they followed the Hebrew Israelites faith, according to KIRO 7. Evidence also showed that Payton had sexually abused the child, while using religion as an excuse.
“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,” prosecutor Jessica Ramos told the outlet. “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.”
Carty was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, and is facing two sentences: 22 years and 20 years for aggravated sexual assault of a child and sexual assault of a child, per WFTV. According to 8 News Now, Texas law requires that people be 18 years old to get legally married though exceptions allowing 16 years old to get married exist.
Both Carty and Payton will be added to the sex offenders registry.