ALLENDALE, S.C. (WJBF) – A former Allendale town councilman has been sentenced for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old relative.

Earl Morell, Jr. pleaded guilty Monday to third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Morell sexually assaulted the girl while she was staying at his home in Mar. 21. In a phone call with the girl’s parents, he admitted to “sleeping with” her and encouraged to parents to have her medically examined.

“What was supposed to be a fun and carefree sleepover with friends quickly turned into a nightmare for this child,” said Hunter Swanson Simmons of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case. “This assault was traumatizing and continues to haunt this girl.

“With an active prison sentence, Mr. Morell is being held responsible for his actions. I hope it also brings healing and a sense of safety for his victim.”

Morell was originally facing a second-degree sexual assault charge. But with the victim’s consent, he was allowed to plead to the lesser charge. He has been sentenced to 5 years, suspended to 2 years in jail plus 3 years of probation. He will also have to register as a sex offended and has a permanent restraining order forbidding him from contacting the victim.

In October 2022, Gov. Henry McMaster signed an executive order suspending Morell for “moral turpitude.”