Feeling worthless, ashamed, hopeless, broken, scared and alone. Those were the emotions a 19-year-old girl expressed to the courtroom as she described being raped for years in Eagle Mountain.
“I’ve lost countless years of my childhood that I will never get back,” she said adamantly. “I still wake up in the night crying and screaming.”
The girl shook as she spoke at the sentencing of a man convicted of sexually abusing her since she was 9 years old. Judge Thomas Low commended the girl for her bravery to speak in court on Thursday.
“You’re the kind of person that can power through,” Low told her. “A steady voice. That’s what I noticed. And I think you can do this.”
Richard Douglas Ward, 37, was convicted of seven first-degree felony charges after a three-day jury trial in September.
Jury members found him guilty of four counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, two counts of sodomy of a child and one count of rape. Ward was also convicted of two second-degree felonies of forcible sexual abuse.
Ward sat shackled in a red jumpsuit and stared blankly during the sentencing. He did not give an apology or express remorse when he addressed the judge.
“You expressed zero empathy for anyone except your fellow inmates,” Low said after Ward read from a written statement. “It’s too bad you couldn’t say sorry.”
The judge sentenced Ward to at least 35 years in prison. The first parole hearing will happen after Ward is 70 years old. Each charge will run concurrently, and Ward also received credit for the time he spent in jail after his arrest in March 2017.
“Denial diminishes the chances of rehabilitation because he simply cannot take responsibility,” said prosecuting attorney David Sturgill. “The burden that will be placed on Mr. Ward will pale in comparison to the burden that has been placed on (the girl).”
Court documents state the girl was 9 or 10 years old when Ward started to sexually abuse her in 2010 at her home in Eagle Mountain.
Ward entered the girl’s room at night and threatened to kill her, her mother and her siblings if she did not let him inappropriately touch her, according to a probable cause statement from the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
The girl told investigators she felt terrified, betrayed and scared as Ward continued to enter her room almost every night and sexually abuse her for more than five years.
The abuse escalated from inappropriate touching to sexual assault when the girl turned 14 years old, according to court documents.
The girl reached out to ecclesiastical leaders for help and the leaders reported the abuse to law enforcement authorities.
Tears rolled down her mother’s face as she spoke about the nightmares and depression her daughter continues to face after the jury trial.
“This is every parent’s worst nightmare. One of the worst things that can happen to a person happened to my daughter,” the mother said through sobs. “I never expected that evil to be in my home under my watch.”
The girl wiped away tears and hugged her mother and family members tightly after the sentencing.
“I know we’ll be okay, but it’s been hard,” the mother said. “We all so desperately want this to be over, to be able to start healing.”