Archive for Saturday, January 12, 2008

Couple face life terms in sex abuse cases

January 12, 2008

A Baldwin City couple are facing life in prison for sex crimes involving their children.

A 28-year-old Baldwin City woman, who made her first appearance Friday in Douglas County District Court, is charged with three crimes involving her 3-year-old son and another crime involving her boyfriend's daughter.

The woman is charged with aggravated criminal sodomy, aggravated indecent liberties with a child and sexual exploitation of a child. She faces up to life in prison on those charges, prosecutors said. She also is charged with endangering a child - her boyfriend's 14-year-old daughter. The woman faces up to 17 months in prison on that charge.

Court documents allege the crimes against the toddler occurred last year, between June 1 and Aug. 9. The crimes against the teenager occurred between Jan. 1, 2007, and March 31, 2007, documents say.

The woman's 40-year-old boyfriend is awaiting sentencing in his own case.

He was charged in August with three counts of rape of a child, one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and one count of criminal sodomy, all involving his daughter. The incidents allegedly occurred between November 2004 and March 2007, in Lawrence and Baldwin City.

Last month, the man pleaded no contest to the three rape charges. He will be sentenced in March.

According to Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson, the investigation of the woman started as officers gathered evidence in her boyfriend's case.

"The initial investigation was started after the victim in that case came forward to some law enforcement personnel and social service personnel that they had been victimized," he said.

Lawrence police investigated the case because the intitial crime took place there. Baldwin City Police Chief Mike McKenna said he was kept informed about the case, but his officers weren't involved.

Both adults face 25 years to life in prison under Jessica's Law.

Jessica's Law is the informal name given to a 2005 Florida law aimed at deterring sex offenders from offending again. Jessica Lunsford was a 9-year-old Florida girl raped and murdered by a previously convicted sex offender.

The law, which applies to defendants whose victims are younger than 14, was adopted in 2006 in Kansas. It imposes a 25-year sentence for adults convicted of a violent sex crime against a child. A second conviction triggers a 40-year term and a third results in life without parole.

Branson said the main feature of the law is that it allows judges to impose harsher than normal sentences on first-time offenders, if the crimes are severe. These two cases meet that test, he said.

The woman - speaking Friday via an electronic feed from jail - told District Judge Stephen Six she now was living with her parents in Overbrook. She said her mother had been driving her to Stormont-Vail Hospital West, a behavioral health division of the Topeka hospital, to see a counselor.

"I have a severe problem with depression and I haven't had my medication today," she told the judge.

She began crying and told the judge she was on suicide watch, but not a flight risk because the only place she had to go was her parents' house. She said she works in Lawrence.

The judge set her bond at $250,000 and ordered her not to have any contact with her son or her boyfriend's daughter.

The Signal generally does not identify people charged with sex crimes unless there is a conviction.

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