Myrtle Beach man sentenced to 24 years for sexual assaulting woman at gunpoint

David James Welch, 21, of Myrtle Beach was found guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping by an Horry County jury. (J. Reuben Long Detention Center. WPDE background)

A Myrtle Beach man was found guilty of sexual assault on Thursday and will spend 24 years in prison.

David James Welch, 21, of Myrtle Beach was found guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping by an Horry County jury, according to a news release from Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson.

Welch was found not guilty on charges of armed robbery and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime during the same trial, according to Joshua D. Holford, the senior assistant solicitor who prosecuted the case for the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office along with Assistant Solicitor Cara Walker.

But, for the criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping charges, Judge Steven H. John sentenced Welch to 24 years in prison for each offense. The sentences will run concurrently.

Judge John also revoked Welch’s probation on a prior conviction of strong-armed robbery, Holford said, and Welch was sentenced to serve six years for that robbery charge.

The case against Welch comes after, on Jan. 8, 2015, a woman said Welch assaulted her after the two met for the first time. The victim had met and started chatting with Welch online a few days prior before they agreed to meet in person that evening, Holford said.

Welch tricked the victim into driving to an apartment complex, where he said he lived, according to the release. Welch then pointed a gun at the victim, forced her to have sex with him and then stole her purse and cellphone so she could not contact anyone.

The woman drove to Coastal Grand Mall and went to a department store to call the police and report the crime, Holford said in the release.

“My thanks goes to the officers with the Myrtle Beach Police Department and Detective Jeremiah Beam for their diligent work to bring justice in this case,” Holford said. “This is a cautionary tale about meeting someone online. There are several steps you should take if you are meeting someone for the first time to protect yourself.”

Holford said those steps include:

  • Meet in a public place
  • Let friends and family know who you are meeting with, where you plan to go and what time you should return
  • Give friends and family the person’s contact information
  • Don’t be afraid to leave the situation if you feel uncomfortable with the person after meeting them

“Even if you do all the right things when meeting someone, be cautious and on guard at all times,” Holford said in the release. “If you are the victim of a crime, especially a sexual assault, do not blame yourself. You are not at fault. No one deserves or asks to the victim of a sexual assault. It takes courage and strength to tell family and authorities what happen.”

In an unrelated case from November 2014, Welch was also charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping. Those charges remain pending in that incident, which occurred at Broadway at the Beach, according to the release.

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