[PHOTO CREDIT: Lake County Sheriff’s Office]
[Original Publish Date: 05/15/21]
CLERMONT, Florida — A Clermont man has been locked up for more than a week in the Lake County Jail on no bond after he was arrested for molesting a 13-year-old girl he referred to as “Cherry” and “Cherry Blossom.”
Earlier this month, Clermont Police received a call from a female who reported her 13-year-old sister was being sexually abused. She spoke with a CPD corporal and said the victim would be coming to Clermont Police Department the following day to speak to someone because she was out of the city at the time of the call, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Prior to the call to CPD, the victim texted someone and stated, “Help me. This man keeps touching me and I want him to stop.” It is unclear who she texted and other details are not available due to heavy redaction throughout the affidavit. The person she texted spoke to the girl and the girl said, “Hezekiah touched me. He pulled my pants down and lifted up my shirt.”
The girl’s phone was given to CPD and a detective found text messages between the girl and Hezekiah Benjamin, 57. The detective did not find any texts that were sexual in nature but did note Benjamin frequently requested to video chat with the girl and often called her “Cherry” or “Cherry Blossom.”
The victim was interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center in Leesburg and though she was hesitant to talk about details at first, she eventually said Benjamin touched her and gave details Lake Legal News will not publish, due to their graphic nature. She also said Benjamin is the only person she is scared of and he makes her “uncomfortable.”
Another person, whose name is also redacted, was interviewed and she said she woke up one morning around 3 a.m. and Benjamin was not where he normally slept. She looked closed and saw the victim’s leggings were pulled down to the tops of her thighs and she then “knew he was a child molester.” She asked Benjamin what was going on and he is alleged to have said he, “was just helping [the victim] pull her pants up.” The witness told police she believed at that moment Benjamin had touched the girl sexually. Later that morning the witness questioned Benjamin about the incident, and he repeatedly denied touching the girl.
A warrant was issued for Benjamin’s arrest May 7 for one count of sexual battery on a child and two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. He was picked up the same day and is currently being held in LCJ on no bond.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Marilyn M. Aciego, began writing for Lake Legal News in 2010. Born and raised in Lake County, she is a graduate of Umatilla High School and Lake-Sumter State College. She started her journalism career at LSSC, where she was editor of both student publications, The Angler and The Odyssey. Her professional career began at the Daily Commercial in 2004 where she covered cops and courts the majority of her time there until she left in 2009. Currently, along with being Editor-in-Chief of Lake Legal News, she is the Florida bureau chief for an international media organization. She has made more than two dozen appearances on live national television, including Nancy Grace and the Greta Van Susteren show, along with her appearance on Evil Twins. Contact her with breaking news, tips, and feedback by sending an e-mail to 352Tips@gmail.com. You can also contact us on our Facebook page — and make sure you “Like” and “Follow us” there. [PHOTO CREDIT: Bonnie Whicher]