On Wednesday, with more than 100 potential jurors waiting to start trial, Robert “BJ” Branson, 38 of Dixon, decided to enter a last minute guilty plea to the charges of Child Molestation in the First Degree and two counts of Statutory Rape in the Second Degree, according to the Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney's office.

The case was presided over by the Honorable William E. Hickle. The case was prosecuted by Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney, Brendon Fox and Assistant Prosecutor Kara Breshears.

In March of 2011, Branson’s victim, then 11 years old, came forward reporting years of abuse by Branson. Branson was charged, but the case was dropped in 2012 when the victim recanted her allegations telling the police that her aunt had put her up to it, according to the Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney’s office.

A release issued by the prosecutor’s office said that on March 11, 2016, Branson’s victim ran away from Branson while at the grocery store. The victim reported to Dixon Police that Branson had been raping her since she was a small child. Detective Neil Boshoff of the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department investigated the case.

According to the release, the victim reported that Branson had convinced her to recant in 2012 because she was causing problems for her mother and her younger brothers would wind up in foster care. The victim also reported that Branson had raped her the weekend before. Detective Boshoff recovered a pair of jean shorts from the victim which were sent to the Missouri State Highway Patrol Lab for testing. Criminalist Amanda Paulus tested a stain from the inside, crotch area of the shorts and found a mixture of DNA from the victim and Branson’s semen.

“I am pleased with the result. I hope the victim is able to gain closure to move forward with her life,” said Fox. “I am grateful for the hard work by all involved in bringing this dangerous, child predator to justice.”

Branson will be sentenced on September 7, 2018 at 10:30AM. He faces up to 44 years in prison.