Judge gives maximum sentence to man who sexually abused young girl

MORGANTOWN — Gerald Hess, who sexually abused a young girl, was sentenced to serve 20-75 years in prison Monday.

The 23-year-old previously pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and one count of sexual abuse by a parent or guardian before Monongalia County Circuit Court Judge Susan Tucker.

She sentenced Hess to the max on all three counts — 5-25 years for each first-degree sexual abuse and 10-25 years for sexual abuse by a parent or guardian. She ordered the sentences run consecutively and ordered him to pay $25,000 in reparations to the victim, though she noted it was unlikely he would be employed again. Hess must also register as a sex offender for life.

Hess did not speak before the court.

Ashley Hunt, the victim’s Guardian ad Litem, spoke on the 8-year-old’s behalf. The Dominion Post does not typically name the victims of sexual crimes or juvenile victims.

“Hess sentenced [the victim] to a lifetime of struggle,” Hunt said.

She said the girl has been moved around between foster homes and hospitals five times since January, acts out physically and sexually and has suicidal thoughts. Hunt said the victim was removed from her first foster home because she was aggressive toward other children in the home and sent to Highland Hospital for evaluation.

The victim was placed in a second foster home but then taken back to the hospital after she threatened to kill herself.

While in the hospital, the girl had to be physically restrained using a harness and was also chemically restrained. Hunt said at one point the girl was so drugged, she could not stand or speak — launching an investigation into Highland Hospital. There are multiple Highland locations, including Clarksburg and Charleston. Hunt did not specify which location the victim was sent to.

The victim was placed in a new foster home Sept. 13, and Hunt said it seems promising, but there are still significant behavior issues to overcome.

Tucker said the case is as bad as they come.

“I don’t think there’s anything else I can say,” Prosecutor Perri Jo DeChristopher said after Hunt finished speaking.

She asked that Hess be given the maximum sentence for each count and that the sentences run consecutively.

DeChristopher said at some point, Hess would be free from prison, but the victim will still be carrying the trauma he caused.

Tweet Will Dean @WillDean_DP; wdean@domininionpost.com

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