Stepfather sentenced in sex abuse

May 27, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

A 33-year-old man was sentenced yesterday to three years in the county jail for sexually abusing his 14-year-old stepdaughter beginning on her sixth birthday.

Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. said, as he did March 29 when he convicted the man on multiple sex abuse counts, that he believed the girl and that the man's crimes cried out for punishment.

He sentenced the man to nine years each on two counts of child abuse, two counts of third-degree sexual offense and one of second-degree child abuse. Judge Burns suspended all but three years of the sentences and ordered them served concurrently at the Carroll County Detention Center. The man will be allowed to spend his days at his job as a heating and air-conditioning mechanic.

"This sentence is fair," said Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill, who had asked Judge Burns to impose four years of prison time.

A parade of supporters filed into the courtroom during the 45-minute sentencing hearing. Six people -- including the man's mother, preacher, employer and friends -- spoke on his behalf.

And, in the weeks before yesterday's hearing, dozens of people wrote letters to Judge Burns extolling the man's contributions to society.

The man "is the epitome of how a person ought to control their life by living their moral upbringing on a direct day-to-day basis," wrote his former scoutmaster, John J. Rush Sr. "I am proud to say that I was his mentor."

Bernice T. Beard, a longtime member of the man's church, wrote that the man is "a wholesome, clean cut, somewhat reserved, polite young man with a good mind, a pleasing sense of humor and a sociable attitude toward people."

Ms. Hill said that despite his previously exemplary record as a father, employee and volunteer firefighter, he must be held accountable for the abuse of a little girl who trusted him.

"There are plenty of people who have good parts who do terribly bad things to kids," the prosecutor said after the hearing.

The man -- whose name is being withheld to protect the victim's privacy -- addressed Judge Burns and read a prepared statement in which he apologized for putting his wife and stepdaughter through more than a year of turmoil since the charges were lodged.

The victim -- who wrote to Judge Burns earlier this month and said she still loves her stepfather -- was the state's key witness at the man's three-day nonjury trial in March.

She testified that her stepfather began abusing her on her sixth birthday and that tickling episodes turned into fondling.

She said that on April 2, 1993, her stepfather exposed himself to her.

She testified that she was confused, scared and angry, but that she still loved her stepfather.

In a 1993 letter to him that was never delivered, she said, "I can't believe what you did to me. I am very angry and hurt by what you've done. . . . I wish that we could have had a true father-daughter relationship."

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