Store owner pleads guilty to sex abuse Six children fondled in shop

November 17, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

The 74-year-old owner of a Harney convenience store pleaded guilty yesterday to sexually abusing six youngsters over the last seven years.

Luther I. Ridinger, owner of Ridinger's Store at Harney and Conover roads, entered guilty pleas to four counts of battery and one count of third-degree sex offense, and one count of fourth-degree sex offense.

Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. set sentencing for Jan. 20.

In exchange for the pleas, prosecutors dropped eight other charges and agreed to a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison, with all but two years suspended.

Ridinger did not address the court during yesterday's half-hour hearing. He was freed pending sentencing, although an earlier court order prohibits him from any contact with people under 18. He has continued to operate his grocery since his arrest in June.

According to a statement of facts read by Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill, Ridinger would fondle boys in his store.

Kathleen Lynch, a county child abuse investigator, began a probe in June after the first of several people made allegations against Ridinger.

Ms. Lynch said Ridinger often sold candy to his young customers before he assaulted them.

The abuse occurred between 1986 and June 1993, Ms. Lynch said. The youngsters ranged in age from 2 to 15 years when they were assaulted.

Child abuse investigators who searched Ridinger's store found sexually explicit photographs, condoms and sexually oriented advertisements in his living quarters behind the store.

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