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Douglas County woman sentenced to 28 years in prison in child sexual abuse case


An Ava resident has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for her part in the sexual assault and exploitation of two children over a decade ago, in a case that also resulted in charges for two men.

Shawna Ross, 50, was originally charged in January 2023 in Douglas County with two counts each of first-degree statutory rape, statutory sodomy, and trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation of a child, all felonies.

In early December, Ross entered an Alford plea of guilty to one felony count of sexual trafficking of a child in Wright County on a change of venue from Douglas County. An Alford plea is a plea in which the defendant does not admit guilt, but concedes the prosecution has enough evidence to convict.

The sentence was handed down Feb. 6 in Douglas County by 44th Judicial Circuit Court Judge R. Craig Carter.

The incidents that prompted charges against Ross reportedly happened between Jan. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2011, and involved two children younger than 12. It is alleged that Ross knew the children were being used in sexual performances with a man in exchange for Ross' family living rent-free on his property.

The case was investigated by the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, the Department of Homeland Security and the Ava Police Department, and also resulted in charges against Harold L. Blair, Jr., 67, also of Ava, and Robert Atherton, 57, formerly of Ava.

Blair faced federal charges, two counts of using a minor to produce child pornography and one of possessing child pornography. The case was the result of an investigation initiated by the Douglas County Sheriff's Department after county workers demolishing a home formerly owned by Blair reportedly discovered photos depicting the child sexual assault of two victims, hidden in a wall.

Douglas County charges were dropped in order for federal charges to be filed, and court records show he was to have gone to trial beginning Monday in Springfield, but it has been taken off the docket and a change of plea hearing was held Jan. 30.

Atherton was charged in Douglas County with statutory rape of a victim younger than 14, statutory sodomy of a victim younger than 14, and two counts of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

He entered an Alford plea of guilty to one count of first-degree statutory sodomy and was sentenced in October to 30 years in prison by 25th Judicial Circuit Court Judge John D. Beger in Texas County, on a change of venue from Douglas County.

Atherton and Blair were named as alleged perpetrators in the abuse that involved the two children.

Blair is named in court documents as the person who owned the property where Atherton, Ross and the children were living at the time of the alleged abuse.