Salem man charged in sex offense

SALEM – A man charged with obstructing official business after an incident with a 14-year-old runaway girl last month is now charged with an alleged sex offense related to a different 14-year-old girl.

Mark E. Knight Jr., 26, of 435 N. Ellsworth Ave., was charged last week with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, a third-degree felony, for the incident which occurred in the fall of 2012 at a Jennings Avenue residence.

He was arraigned in Columbiana County Municipal Court Monday via video from the county jail where he had been taken Friday. The warrant had been served at a School Street property by Salem Police.

According to an affidavit filed by Det. Brad Davis of the Salem Police Department, Knight was present in the home with the child, who is now 15 years old, and asked the child several times to engage in the sexual conduct which occurred in the basement.

A preliminary hearing is set for 1 p.m. Thursday. The charge is a third-degree felony because the defendant is 10 or more years older than the alleged victim.

Knight had already been scheduled to report to jail Nov. 1 to serve a 23-day jail term after pleading no contest and being found guilty of the obstructing official business charge on Oct. 3. He had received credit for seven days already served.

The incident with the runaway girl remains under investigation, according to Davis. Salem Police found the girl in a vacant apartment on the second floor above Knight’s first floor apartment after noticing an extension cord leading from the first story to an upstairs window.

The girl had been reported missing Sept. 23 by her parents when she failed to return home from school. Police sought the public’s help in finding her and received a tip the morning of Sept. 26 from some newspaper carriers who thought they saw her at the North Ellsworth Avenue property with Knight.

When police arrived at the house later in the morning, they found Knight preparing to leave. He was stopped and Police Chief J.T. Panezott said he denied any knowledge of the juvenile being around, even giving permission for police to search his first floor apartment. After finding nothing, the officers walked outside and noticed the extension cord.

Knight allegedly claimed the upstairs apartment was vacant and padlocked. Police were able to make entry and found the girl inside.

Knight was still outside and tried to leave the scene after being told to stay put by police, leading to the obstruction charge.