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story.lead_photo.caption Kennie Cook

LINDEN, Texas — An Atlanta, Texas, man who sexually abused a 7-year-old boy he knew from church was sentenced Friday to 80 years in prison following a jury trial in Cass County.

Kennie Lewis Cook Jr., 33, was found guilty by a jury of three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sentenced to 40 years on each count. Two of the counts will run concurrently to each other but consecutively to the third for a total 80-year term.

The jury also imposed a $1,000 fine on each count.

The case was prosecuted by Cass County Assistant District Attorney Nick Ross.

"The child in this case who testified about the sexual abuse he endured at the hands of the defendant is the true hero. Without his willingness to stand up to his abuser and tell the truth of what happened, we wouldn't have been able to get a child predator off the streets," Ross said. "Because of the defendant's position in the church, this case was extremely emotional and tore apart a family and a church community. The Cass County District Attorney's Office is grateful for the jury who carefully listened to all of the evidence. The jury's verdict shows their confidence in what this child has said, and it also tells other sex offenders that this behavior will not be tolerated in our community."

Cook was the music minister at the same church as the boy and regularly came to the child's house to eat meals after services, according to a probable cause affidavit. Cook sexually abused the boy at his home in Atlanta, Texas.

A member of the boy's family reported the abuse to the Atlanta, Texas, Police Department in October 2018 and the boy met with a forensic interviewer at the Texarkana Children's Advocacy Center as part of the

Cass County District Attorney Courtney Shelton said the child, now 8, bravely testified about the abuse at trial. Shelton said Cook will be required to serve at least half his sentence before he becomes parole eligible. Eligibility for parole is not a guarantee that parole will be

Fifth District Judge Bill Miller presided over the trial.

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