THOMASVILLE -- A man being interviewed about a recently reported child molestation confessed to a molestation he told authorities occurred about seven years ago.

A child molestation involving an 11-year-old girl was reported to the Thomas County Sheriff's Department a week ago.

A sheriff's department investigator and a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent entered the case. After interviewing the victim, officers determined the allegation was valid, said Lt. Tim Watkins, sheriff's department chief investigator.

A suspect, Billy Wess Benton, 36, 122 Hyde Road, was questioned.

Benton admitted to inappropriate touching of the girl, Watkins said.

"During his interview, he admitted to having sex with another child," the investigator said.

The victim in the previous incident is 20. She was about 13 at the time of the offense, Watkins explained.

Benton, who is charged with two counts of child molestation, remained in the Thomas County Jail Monday night. He is awaiting arraignment.

According to Watkins, molestation incidents occurred once in each case.

Victims of child molestation who are hesitant to report an incident should not fear retaliation, Watkins said.

"A protection plan is the first step taken," the investigator said about shielding a victim. "We arrange a safety plan for the child."

The Thomas County Department of Family and Children Services joins forces with law enforcement agencies to provide protection and assist in investigations of child molestation cases.

A child molestation victim should confide in someone they consider trustworthy, Watkins advised. The confidante might be a friend, a minister, a teacher, a law enforcement officer, a school nurse -- "anyone they trust," he added.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 220.

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