Knox man guilty of child rape

Robert Vernon Gouge

A Knox County man who raped his stepdaughter repeatedly could spend the rest of his life behind bars if prosecutors have their way.

Robert Vernon Gouge, 47, was convicted by a Knox County jury Tuesday of three counts of rape of a child, one count of attempted rape of a child and one count of aggravated sexual battery, according to the District Attorney General’s Office.

Gouge’s sentencing hearing is set for June 24 before Criminal Court Judge Kyle Hixson.

The victim — who is not being named to protect her privacy — had to take the stand against Gouge during the two-day trial and describe the abuse she suffered to jurors.

“The community is safer because of the bravery shown by this victim coming forward to testify against her abuser,” said DA Charme Allen.

The girl was 15 years old in 2019 when the Department of Children’s Services learned of the abuse. Investigator Shaun Sakovich of the Knoxville Police Department was assigned the case and eventually arrested Gouge, according to DA’s Office spokesman Sean McDermott. 

“At trial, Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Lambert and Tammy Hicks explained to the jury that Gouge had dated the victim’s mother and was the victim’s de facto father figure, having raised the victim since she was a baby,” McDermott said.

“Starting when the victim was nine years old and continuing until she turned twelve, Gouge raped and sexually assaulted the victim on multiple occasions,” he said.

Rape of a child is a Class A felony under state law that carries a punishment of 25 to 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole while each count of aggravated sexual battery carries a potential prison term of 8 to 12 years. 

“At sentencing, prosecutors will ask Judge Hixson for the maximum sentence on each count and to run those counts consecutive to each other to ensure Gouge remains in prison,” McDermott said.

Published on April 29, 2021