TUSCOLA — A Tuscola man will spend the rest of his life in prison for molesting two young girls during "tasting" and "feeling" games in his home.
Late Friday night, a Douglas County jury of seven men and five women convicted David M. Harshbarger, 35, of two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He was acquitted of a fourth count of sex abuse. The jury deliberated about five hours.
Because there was more than one victim, State's Attorney Kevin Nolan said Harshbarger faces the mandatory life sentence. Judge Mike Carroll set sentencing for Feb. 28.
Nolan and Assistant State's Attorney Kate Watson prosecuted Harshbarger. He was represented by Paul Vanni of Carbondale.
The acts occurred during 2010 at two different homes that Harshbarger lived in in Tuscola. Nolan said one of the girls was repeatedly molested; the other was victimized only one time that authorities knew of.
He said the molestation occurred during sleepovers at the Harshbarger home and at times when Harshbarger was the only adult present.
"There was the tasting, feeling game. Our main victim described it on her first overnight there," he said.
Nolan said the case, investigated by the Tuscola Police Department, came to the attention of police in May 2011 after one of the girls told her mother. That woman then contacted the mother of the other victim — the families knew each other — and they immediately reported their suspicions to the police.
The girls were interviewed by professionals at the Child Advocacy Center in Charleston and Harshbarger was formally charged on May 6.
Nolan said police believe the sex acts began in early 2010 and carried on through the fall of that year.
"The game was played one at a time. The kids go into a room alone with Mr. Harshbarger. He blindfolds them, turns out the light and closes the door. They were supposed to feel something and guess what it was," Nolan said.
Nolan said the girl who was repeatedly molested testified about times when Harshbarger gave her things to taste, asking her to identify flavors while blindfolded. .
In addition to hearing from the girls, the jury heard the girls' recorded statements from the Children's Advocacy Center, the testimony of their mothers, and from a Tuscola police officer.
Jury selection began Tuesday and stretched into Wednesday. The state wrapped up its case Friday.
Vanni then presented his case, including Harshbarger and his sister. Harshbarger admitted playing the games with the girls and his own children but denied ever engaging in any inappropriate behavior. His sister testified she was present when the games were played and never saw anything illicit happening.
Harshbarger has been in the Douglas County jail since May 5.