Judge imposes 25-year term

Woman's boyfriend pleaded guilty to beating her 3 girls

`They were terrorized'

Jessup

November 09, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A 22-year-old man who beat and terrorized his live-in girlfriend's three young children for two months was sentenced to 25 years in prison yesterday in a case Howard County Circuit Judge Diane O. Leasure said was "one of the most horrific" she's been asked to preside over.

Rusty Edson Stover, who battered one of the girls, then 7, so badly that she had to be flown by helicopter to a hospital on New Year's Day, pleaded guilty to three counts of physical child abuse in June."[The girls] were brutalized, they were terrorized and it didn't just happen on one occasion. It happened on multiple occasions. It wasn't just one victim. It was three," Leasure said before handing down three consecutive 15-year sentences and suspending portions of each, for a total of 25 years in prison. Leasure also imposed five years of supervised probation.

The girls - 8-year-old twins and their 12-year-old sister who now live with their grandparents - did not attend yesterday's sentencing.

But in letters to the court, they talked of their fear of Stover, who lived with the girls and their mother in their Jessup trailer for two months late last year.

The oldest girl wrote of regular beatings with fists and belts and books, and said she lost 25 pounds in two months because Stover wouldn't let her eat. She said she wanted Stover "put away for 100 years."

One of the twins wrote of falling asleep in her classes because she was scared to sleep at night. The girls said that they had to wear long sleeves to cover the bruises and that Stover threatened to hurt them if they told anyone about the beatings.

"I never felt safe because I knew he would hurt me," one of the twins wrote. "I feel safe now, because I know he is in jail. ... Everything is safe at my grandma's house."

The Sun is not naming the girls because they are juveniles.

Stover, of Severna Park, was arrested shortly after one of the twins, who was drifting in and out of consciousness, was flown to Johns Hopkins Children's Center. A nurse documented 81 bruises and bleeding in the girl's brain, Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy said.

In the weeks that followed, the girl and her sisters detailed abuse at Stover's hands, saying they were punched, bitten and hit by their mother's boyfriend from about Halloween last year until New Year's Day.

"They never knew what they did wrong. They were just always afraid of doing something wrong," Murphy said. Although the girls say they now feel safe, "They're afraid if he is not in jail what will happen to them because the defendant threatened them."

She argued for the 25-year sentence that Leasure ultimately imposed - above the 6 to 19 years recommended in state sentencing guidelines.

But Peter O'Neill, Stover's lawyer, said that although prison time is warranted, 25 years amounts to a "life sentence" for his client, who he said needs treatment for a variety of mental health and cognitive problems to properly function in society.

Psychological evaluations of Stover conducted through the state diagnose an "antisocial personality disorder." But O'Neill offered evidence from a psychiatrist who said Stover does not fit the profile of someone who is anti- social but instead suffers from substance abuse, "major" depression and developmental disabilities.

Before Leasure imposed the sentence, Stover apologized to the girls, saying, "My heart goes out to them."

Leasure noted the apology and said her sentence might have been different had Stover not apologized.

The abuse, she said, was "unimaginable."

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