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Northern California coroner charged with sexual child abuse

This May 2017 photo released by the Humboldt County Jail shows Darrell Harris in Eureka, Calif. The Northern California coroner for one of the wealthiest counties in the country was arrested and charged with sexually abusing a girl younger than 14. Harris, 46, appeared in court Monday, May 8, 2017, but did not enter a plea on four felony charges and a misdemeanor count of sexually abusing the girl over the last nine years. Harris is in charge of the coroner's office in Marin County, a San Francisco suburb north of the Golden Gate Bridge. (Humboldt County Jail via AP)

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) — The coroner in a wealthy San Francisco suburban county, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, remains jailed facing charges that he sexually abused a girl younger than 14.

Darrell Harris, 46, appeared in court Monday, but did not enter a plea on four felony charges and a misdemeanor count of sexually abusing the girl over the last nine years.

Harris is in charge of the coroner’s office in Marin County, a wealthy and politically liberal San Francisco suburb north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The U.S. Census lists the county’s median family income of $90,500 as the 17th wealthiest county in the nation. Only Santa Clara County in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley has a higher median state family income level.

Harris, who is in charge of the Marin County’s coroner office, was held for lack of $750,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on May 15.

Harris’ attorney, Douglas Horngrad, told the Marin Independent Journal (https://tinyurl.com/lphrz7c ) that the charges are uncharacteristic.

“I can only share with you that everyone, and I mean everyone, who knows him, is in absolute shock,” Horngard said. “Nobody believes it, from law enforcement to neighbors.'”

His wife and one of his children watched the proceedings and departed quickly afterward, the newspaper reported.

The Marin County Sheriff’s Office controls the coroner’s office, where Harris has worked since 2003. In October 2015, he was promoted to chief deputy coroner and placed in charge of the office.

Harris was arrested in Humboldt County on Friday, about 225 miles (362 kilometers) north of the Sonoma County address he gave police as his own. He was transferred to the Marin County jail in San Rafael, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of San Francisco.

The complaint alleges one count of continuous sexual abuse of a girl under 14 years old. The charge alleges that the molestation occurred on at least three occasions between May 2008 and May 2011.

The other counts, which include charges such as lewd acts and oral sex with a minor, cover various periods from 2011 to 2015. The girl was between the ages of 14 and 17 during that span.

The complaint does not say whether Harris met the girl while at work or the nature of their relationship.

The alleged crimes occurred in Marin County, but the nearby Santa Rosa Police Department investigated the case because of Harris’ law enforcement ties.

Marin Sheriff Robert Doyle told the newspaper that the department has not made a decision on Harris’ employment status.

“Darrell has been an exemplary employee,” Doyle said. “We’re saddened by the allegations.”

Harris is also a part-time commercial photographer who publishes under the name D. Alan Harris.

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This story corrects that complaint does not say whether Harris met the girl at work or the nature of their relationship, not that the complaint does say that. Changes dateline.

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