A former Richland day care worker who admitted to sexually assaulting a toddler in his care pleaded with a Benton County judge Monday to give him the help he needs.
Lucas Anthony Miller, 22, will have to wait until Sept. 6 to see if Superior Court Judge Craig Matheson determines Miller can get a shorter sentence and court-ordered treatment under the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative.
Miller was set to be sentenced Monday on one count of first-degree rape of a child, but his defense attorney asked for more time so a Richland sex offender therapist can complete his evaluation to determine if Miller is amenable to sex offender treatment.
Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra objected to continuing the sentencing and said she and the victims do not support the SSOSA. Petra said she already had to call the victim's parents last week to tell them the sentencing was postponed until Monday after the defense asked for the special evaluation.
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"They need closure," Petra said.
Miller was arrested by Richland police in October after being accused of sexually assaulting children at Kids World Daycare, where he worked from April to August last year.
He was charged in connection with one victim, a 2-year-old boy, but Petra said there are three other victims -- two preschool boys and a preschool girl -- whom the state didn't include in the charges.
Information about other victims typically isn't allowed to be considered by a sentencing judge, but it can be introduced if a SSOSA is being sought, she said.
Defense attorney Gary Metro said Miller was seen Friday by Michael Henry, but Henry said he needed more time to complete his evaluation and report. Metro said Henry gave no indication if he would recommend the SSOSA.
In February, Miller interviewed by Stephen Rubin, a licensed clinical psychologist who completed a psychosexual evaluation, and determined Miller was a moderate to high risk to reoffend, according to Petra and court documents.
At the time, Miller denied he had any sexual motivation by his actions and said it was done out of anger, Metro said. But Metro said his client has had time to consider things and agrees that sexual motivation was involved and that he needs treatment.
The victim's family does not live in the Tri-Cities, so Matheson agreed to hear statements from them and Miller on Monday to prevent them from having to make the trip to court again in two weeks.
The victim's mother said she relives the day last August when her son first told her what happened almost on a daily basis and said it's something no parent ever wants to hear from their child.
She began sobbing while trying to read from her written statement, and Petra had to take the statement when the mother could not continue.
The mother said she felt as though she let her son down because she didn't protect him. She said she remembers a day when she dropped her son off at day care and saw him standing in the middle of the play area crying as she drove away.
"Now that I know why he didn't want to be there, it tears me up that I left him there," Petra read from the mother's statement.
She said her son was in the middle of being potty trained, but after Miller sexually assaulted the boy, he reverted back to going in his diaper or pull-ups and would get upset when it was time to be changed.
He also saw a man in December at the airport who looked like "Mr. Lucas," as Miller was called, and the boy became nervous. She said he gets upset when they start driving in the direction of the Tri-Cities and is afraid to go to preschool too.
"I pray every day that my child will not remember what happened to him as he gets older," the mother's statement said, but she added that she was glad her son was "smart enough to know what Lucas Miller was doing to him was wrong" and to tell her.
"There are no words I can put down to express how truly hurt and angry we are," the statement read.
During an interview with the state Department of Corrections staff, Miller told them he assaulted the boy while changing his diaper because he was angry and frustrated with work and life.
He said he hadn't been properly trained at Kids World and he resorted to violence to try to teach the boy and deal with his stress, court documents said. He also said he suffered from depression, financial debt and drug and alcohol dependency, which made him lash out at the children in his care.
On Monday, Miller told Matheson that he was sorry for his actions and never intended to hurt anyone. He said he always tried to be a good person and help out in the community, which is why he started working with children.
"I was going through a very rough patch and instead of asking for help from people who could provide it, I kept it in. ... Unfortunately, since I was working with children, I let my aggression out on them," Miller said. "I immediately felt bad about everything I did. I tried to hide it. I was so ashamed."
Miller said it made him sick to think he hurt children in any way, and he contemplated suicide -- and still does at times.
"My hope is that the victims, that they can move on; that they know none of this is their fault," he said. "I want to do better. I want to be a good person. ... I want the best chance at making over my life and doing the right thing."
Miller's father, Anthony Miller, also asked the judge to help his son. He said he still has a difficult time believing everything the prosecution says about his son, but he knows his son is sincere when he asks for help.
"He got in a dark place at the wrong time, and some people didn't come through for him," Anthony Miller said. "He didn't get the help he needed. I'd like the court to give him that help now."
If Judge Matheson does not give Lucas Miller the SSOSA, Miller could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Miller faces a minimum sentencing range of seven years and nine months to 10 years and three months in prison, but his ultimate release would be determined by the state's Indeterminate Sentencing Board once the minimum sentence is served.
Petra agreed to recommend the bottom end sentence of almost eight years in prison.
-- Paula Horton: 509-582-1556; email@example.com