A 58-year-old Mesa man was given a chance to get treatment and stay out of prison after he admitted to sexually assaulting a preteen girl last year.
Gregory Alan Standridge apologized in Franklin County Superior Court to his family and the victim's family after pleading guilty to second-degree rape of a child.
"I'm very regretful and ashamed -- enough to last an eternity," he told Judge Craig Matheson. "I'm very sorry."
Standridge is accused of inappropriately touching a young girl several times last year. He said the sexual contact initially started with back rubs, but then escalated to him touching the girl under her clothes.
The girl reported the sexual assault to her parents, who confronted Standridge. He reportedly planned to commit suicide, but then turned himself in to authorities at the Franklin County jail, documents said.
"I believe he needs to have the strictest sentence imposed upon him so he would not do this to another child," the victim's mother said.
She also read from Standridge's suicide letter where he confessed to what he did but reportedly said he didn't see the girl as a child but rather "like any woman, like an affair," she said.
Court documents also show Standridge told authorities that he didn't see the girl as a child and said the sexual contact "just happened," but he also said that didn't excuse his actions.
Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny explained that Standridge qualifies for the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative, which reduces his time behind bars but requires successful completion of sexual deviancy treatment.
Jenny said the victim's family is not happy with that option, but understands it is something the court would consider and likely follow because of Standridge's lack of criminal history.
A SSOSA is about combining punishment with treatment to give the defendant motivation to successfully complete treatment, Jenny said, adding that he was recommending at least six months in jail or a nine-month jail sentence that can be served on work release.
"The state believes if there isn't some initial punishment, it would be like building a roof of the house only and not building any foundation for it," Jenny said. "The state feels there does need to be some punishment provided as a foundation for the treatment. ... This is a serious matter."
Defense attorney Karla Kane said her client immediately sought counseling after what happened and he realizes what he did was wrong. He is continuing personal counseling and has sought out guidance from the ward bishop at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where he attends.
"I don't think there's anything the court would be able to do to Mr. Standridge to put forth to him how wrong his actions were," Kane said. "He's very shameful."
Kane asked Matheson to allow Standridge to do work release so he could continue to support his family and pay for treatment.
Matheson then sentenced Standridge to 81/2 years in prison, but suspended all but a year. He said Standridge will have to serve the first six months in jail, but then can do the rest on work release.
"I'm going to grant the special sex offender option in this case because I think you have some insight in the harm you have caused, and in part because you lived 58 years without criminal activity," Matheson said.
The judge said it was clear that Standridge lacked the insight initially on how his actions affected the child and he took advantage of her, but said he could also see that counseling has begun to help him understand his actions.
Standridge also will have to complete up to five years of treatment, register as a sex offender and have no contact with the victim. If he violates conditions of his release or fails to complete his treatment, he could be ordered to serve the entire prison term.
"I consider this a severe sentence, all things considered, given your age," Matheson said. "In some regards, it's not as serious a sentence as you could have had. You could have had 102 months. You need to take that into perspective."
Charges dropped after accuser disappears
Charges have been dismissed against a Pasco man who has been in jail since July for allegedly threatening to saw his girlfriend into pieces and holding her captive for more than a day.
Hector Cruz-Escamilla's trial was supposed to start Wednesday in Franklin County Superior Court, but prosecutors asked that the case be dismissed because the victim can't be found.
The 42-year-old had been charged with second-degree assault and first-degree kidnapping. The charges, however, can be filed again later.
Cruz-Escamilla was arrested July 4 after the victim's friend call police because the 21-year-old reportedly was scared he would kill her if she called 911, court documents said.
Cruz-Escamilla reportedly accused his live-in girlfriend at the time of cheating on him, held her to the ground and plugged in a circular saw while saying he was going to cut her into pieces, documents said.
He also allegedly made her dig her own grave in the backyard.
Charges were dropped Tuesday, but Cruz-Escamilla remained in the Franklin County jail Wednesday with a hold by U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement and U.S. marshals.
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org