Man who abused family friend gets almost three years in prison

A single cell of sperm sealed the fate of a Medford man sentenced today to almost three years in prison on sex abuse charges.

Jackson County Deputy District Attorney David Hoppe said "one single spermatozoa" from Travis Dale Penninger, 25, of the 2300 block of Table Rock Road, was collected from the 16-year-old victim — and provided the DNA evidence needed to support her statements and prove the crime.

Medford police said Penninger was a family friend of the victim. He was arrested on March 4 after the girl reported the previous Sunday evening that she had been sexually assaulted by someone she knew, police said.

The girl told police that she had met Penninger twice. Each time, she said, he had forced her to use meth, then raped her while she was under the drug's influence. The most recent alleged assault happened the weekend prior to Penninger's arrest.

Penninger pleaded "no contest" to two felony counts of second-degree sex abuse in September. He apologized to "anyone this has affected" prior to being sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Ray White.

White said Penninger's prior criminal history made him a high risk to offend again. He sentenced Penninger to two concurrent 30 months term in prison. Penninger was also sentenced to five years of supervised probation and approximately $3,000 in fines and fees for both counts. He was ordered by White to have no contact with the victim.

He was originally charged with two counts each of first-degree rape and contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor and single counts of first- and second-degree sexual abuse, delivering methamphetamine to a minor and fourth-degree assault. Penninger's additional counts were dropped as a part of the plea agreement, said Hoppe.

Penninger has remained in Jackson County Jail on $1 million bail since his arrest on March 4. He blew kisses to his family members as he was escorted from the courtroom by sheriffs deputies.

— Sanne Specht

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