Couple indicted on charges of raping two children   

By Abby Morris
star staff

  BLOUNTVILLE -- A Kingsport husband and wife who have been jailed since January for allegedly raping the woman's young daughter and making video tapes of the acts were indicted Wednesday by a Sullivan County grand jury on those charges. Additional charges were also added following an investigation.
  Jeffery Lee Ratliff, 37, and Sherie Ratliff, 36, both of 2868 Carrollwood Heights Rd., have been jailed since their arrest Jan. 24 and held on $750,000 bond each.
  At the time of their arrest, Jeffery Ratliff was charged with four counts of rape of a child, two counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and attempted child abuse and neglect, and Sherie Ratliff was charged with three counts of rape of a child, one count of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and attempted child abuse and neglect.
  On Wednesday, the grand jury handed down new charges against the couple. Now, Jeffery and Sherie Ratliff each face eight counts of child rape, five counts of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, eight counts of incest and three counts of aggravated sexual battery.
  According to the indictments filed Wednesday, the two engaged in sexual activity with Sherie Ratliff's two young children, a 9-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter, as far back as February 2002. Jeffrey Ratliff is the step-father of the two children.
  An investigation into the abuse of the two children began on Jan. 24 when officers responded to a call on New Beasonwell Road on a report of a juvenile walking along the side of the road.
  When officers arrived, they found a 9-year-old boy walking nearly one-and-a-half miles away from his home.
  "He told officers his parents allegedly told him that they did not want him any more and for him to leave," a press release from the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department issued at the time of the arrest said. The juvenile told police he was walking to a friend's house.
  Police took the boy to his residence on Carrollwood Heights Road. "When officers arrived at the residence, they found a 12-year-old female in the back yard of the residence wearing no socks, no shoes and no coat. The temperature was approximately 40 degrees with a wind chill of approximately 32 degrees," the press release said. "The female told officers she had been put out of the house by her parents."
  When officers knocked on the door of the residence, a woman later identified as Sherie Ratliff answered wearing no clothing. "She was advised she needed to put some clothes on and returned several minutes later and still was not dressed," the press release said.
  Police found two more children inside the residence, ages one and two years old, and Jeffery Ratliff was hiding in the attic of the residence.
  Authorities notified the Department of Children's Services about the incident and representatives of that agency responded to the scene.
  "The 12-year-old female, who is Sherie Ratliff's daughter and Jeffery Ratliff's step-daughter, then advised officers of sexual activity involving her parents and her where they had made video tapes of some of the incidents," the release said. "Detectives and officers searched the residence and found video tapes of both parents sexually abusing her."
  Some of the alleged sexual activity took place at the family's current residence while some of it occurred at their former residence, 3412 Bloomingdale Pike, also in Kingsport.
  All four of the children were taken into the custody of the DCS following the incident.
  Jeffrey and Sherie Ratliff are scheduled to be arraigned in Sullivan County Criminal Court today. If convicted, the Ratliff's could face 15 to 25 years in prison on each rape charge, eight to 12 years in prison on each aggravated sexual battery and especially aggravated sexual exploitation charge, and three to six years in prison on each incest charge.