Medford man gets nearly three years for sex abuse

A single cell of sperm sealed the fate of a Medford man sentenced Friday to almost three years in prison in connection with 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 she had been sexually assaulted by someone she knew, police said.

The girl told police she had met Penninger twice and, each time, he had forced her to use meth, then raped her while she was under the drug's influence. She said the most recent assault happened the weekend prior to Penninger's arrest. Another incident occurred earlier, police said.

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 and sentenced Penninger to two concurrent 30-month terms in prison. Penninger also was sentenced to five years of supervised probation and required to pay approximately $3,000 in fines and fees for both counts. He was ordered by White to have no contact with the victim.

He originally was 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 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 sheriff's deputies.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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