Crime & Public Safety

Hardeeville man charged in the sexual assault of an elementary-aged Bluffton boy, police say

Child sexual abuse statistics in the United States

One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
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One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

After about a month-long investigation, a 19-year-old Hardeeville man was arrested and charged Monday in the sexual assault of an elementary-aged boy on multiple occasions, according to a Bluffton Police Department report.

Tucker Ritter was charged with felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, according to Beaufort County court documents.

Ritter was living in Bluffton and attending high school there during the time of the alleged assault, the report said.

Ritter and the child have common relatives through marriage, according to the report. It notes that the majority of the incidents took place at the child’s grandmother’s home.

The child’s mother told police she had noticed her son “acting out” and exhibiting “strange behavior” for about a year.

According to the report, the mother and her son, along with her baby and Ritter, stopped at a Bluffton grocery store to pick up laundry detergent.

The mother and baby went into the store for about 10 minutes, leaving her son and Ritter in the car alone, the report said. The mother told investigators she left her phone recording in the car to see if her son would “say something that explained his strange behavior.”

When she returned to the car, “everything appeared to be fine,” the report said.

Later, when she listened to the recording, she said she heard Ritter ask her son if he could touch him.

She told investigators she had never witnessed Ritter behaving inappropriately toward her son.

The boy’s mother contacted Hopeful Horizons — a local children’s advocacy, domestic violence and rape crisis center — and Bluffton Police in the days after the alleged assault.

During a forensic interview, the boy said Ritter had been asking to touch him for six months to a year and tried to touch him at least two times, including in the grocery store parking lot, the report said.

The boy said Ritter showed him photos and videos of naked adults and threatened to not let him use “headphones and other items” if he did not let him touch him, the report said.

Police noted in the report that the boy said Ritter asked him to take his underwear off on multiple occasions but he refused.

Ritter was booked into the Beaufort County Detention Center on Monday and remained in custody as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the jail log.

If convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, Ritter could face fines and/or up to 15 years in prison, according to South Carolina law.

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Lana Ferguson has covered crime, police, and other news for The Island Packet & Beaufort Gazette since June 2018. Before coming to the Lowcountry, she worked for publications in her home state of Virginia and graduated from the University of Mississippi, where she was editor of the college’s daily newspaper.
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