A Raytown man pleaded guilty Friday to statutory rape involving an Independence girl and was sentenced to 40 years in state prison.

Zachary Sprowls, 28, pleaded guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court to two counts of first-degree statutory rape and was sentenced by Judge Marco Roldan to 20 years on each count, to be served consecutively.

Sprowls had been charged in July 2018 with nine counts in all, including statutory sodomy and child molestation in addition to statutory rape. Prosecutors dropped seven charges as part of a plea agreement. Sprowls had been scheduled to go on trial next month.

According to court documents, the mother of a 9-year-old girl noticed her daughter scratching between her legs, and the girl said Sprowls had frequently touched her there, exposed himself and shown her pornographic material. The victim told investigators Sprowls would threaten her in some way to make sure she didn't tell anyone, and many of the encounters happened at her house in Independence.

Sprowls admitted to police of about 50 sexual encounters with the victim dating back to when she was 7 years old. Sprowls said he kept photos of the victim – some taken by her, he claimed – on his phone. He said he knew the sexual encounters and the pictures were wrong and against the law.