‘I feel set free’: Hopkins Co. man sentenced in 47-year-old rape case

14 News speaks with victim after trial.
‘I feel set free’: Hopkins Co. man sentenced in 47-year-old rape case
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 6:36 PM CDT
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MADISONVILLE, Ky. (WFIE) - A Hopkins County man was sentenced Monday in a 47-year-old rape case.

Carmalita Butcher Wilkes walked out of the Hopkins County Courthouse expressing her excitement of finally feeling free after her rapist was sentenced Monday.

“I feel relieved,” says Wilkes. “I feel set free. So many times when I was going through this in the last 47 years, I would just try to stay strong.”

Wilkes says strength helped her get through the day after watching the man who raped her half a century ago, receive his sentence.

“It started at the age of 15,” Wilkes said. She says when her mother died, she and her siblings were placed in the foster care system.

Melvin Nicholson, a man close to Wilkes’ foster family, sexually abused, raped and impregnated her in 1975 and gave birth all alone.

“I delivered him, they told me they were going to bring him back, and he never came back,” said Wilkes. “They placed me back in the foster home, where all the abuse and sexual assault was.”

Wilkes said for years she prayed and was determined to find freedom from the memory of her rapist and peace from never knowing her son.

“Every year when I saw a child, I would just imagine how he would be. It was a pain I carried, a piece of my heart,” Wilkes said.

Wilkes was told she would never amount to anything, but she wanted to prove everyone people wrong. She worked in law enforcement for a number of years and spends most of her time helping people. She says she feels like it’s her calling.

Wilkes received a phone call from a 41 year old man named Chris Savage, who was searching for his biological mother.

“I think I’m your son,” Savage told Wilkes.

“I went ‘oh my goodness,’ I was crying,” Wilkes explained. “Just to hear his voice. It was like hitting the lottery because you never thought you would hear that voice. I would look at guys his age and be like, that may be my son.”

Wilkes and Savage met and formed a bond quickly.

“We looked at each other’s thumbs and we have the same thumb. We do a lot alike,” Wilkes said.

Wilkes made up for lost time by learning she had grandchildren and great-grandchildren she knew nothing about.

Savage heard the story of his conception and was determined to seek justice for his biological mother.

“I wanted to be able to see her smile and be able to live without any sort of restrictions,” said Savage. “I was just one part of that by her finding me after 40 years. To have her close a door on the other side of it, that was very important to be because she deserved it.”

Investigators were able to solve the crime when DNA evidence matched Nicholson to Savage.

For Wilkes and Savage, watching Nicholson’s sentencing and sharing a victim impact statement was just the beginning of that door being closed.

“I just saw a guy that I’ve never met, but helped to create me,” Savage explained.

“He heard me, he heard what I had today and I had my son, he was beside me,” said Wilkes. “For him to hear what he did, that was worth more than anything in the world.”

Nicholson was sentenced to three years of probation for third degree rape.

As for Wilkes, she hopes that the judicial system and foster care system can one day change to ensure everyone’s voice can be heard.