James Exline

Exline guilty of abusing daughter

Girl, 12, later killed in arson

By JARED STRONG
j.strong@carrollspaper.com

A rural Jefferson man sexually abused his now-deceased daughter when she was 11 and 12, a jury decided last week.

James Hubert Exline Jr., 47, faces up to 75 years in prison when he is sentenced in August. He was convicted Thursday of two felony sexual abuse charges, court records show.

Exline allegedly abused the girl for nearly a year, ending in April 2017, which is about the time the girl moved to live with her grandmother in Guthrie Center.

The girl alleged that her father and brother abused her, and a month later she died in a house fire that investigators say was intentionally set by her stepbrother.

The brother, Noah Duane Exline, 20, is set to stand trial in October for abusing the girl over the course of three years. He faces nine felony sexual abuse charges.

The stepbrother, Patrick Ryan Thompson, 27, is set to stand trial in August for murder, attempted murder and arson. He faces life in prison.

Noah Exline admitted to his parents in summer 2016 that he had been abusing the girl, court records show. James Exline, who was previously a convicted sex offender, sought to conceal the abuse because he did not “want his son to turn out like him,” according to court records.

James Exline then started abusing the girl.

In May 2017, the girl and her teen cousin died in an overnight house fire in Guthrie Center. Their grandmother and uncle escaped.

State and local investigators used cellphone text messages and other evidence to allege Thompson ignited the fatal fire.

“Kill all the bitches with their head games,” he allegedly wrote in a text message to his mother in April 2017 after Noah Exline’s arrest. “Yeah it’s the killing that entices me. Sounds so good sometimes.”

The fire happened about a week before James Exline was set to be arrested.

Exline’s trial was moved twice — once because Greene County residents were too familiar with the abuse allegations and their connection to the Guthrie Center fire, and once because the grandmother testified at trial that the girl was murdered.

That’s true, investigators of the fire allege. But a judge forbade witnesses from mentioning the fire because it might have prejudiced jurors against Exline.

His trial last week was held in Waverly.

Exline is jailed until his Aug. 6 sentencing hearing, which will be held in Jefferson.

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