A former Richland day care worker was sentenced Thursday to a minimum term of seven years and nine months in prison for raping a toddler.
Lucas Anthony Miller, 22, again apologized for his actions in 2011, saying he is "eternally sorry" not only to the 2-year-old boy listed as the victim in his case but also to all the victims.
"I recognize that I did a very terrible thing," he told the court. "I'm trying to understand what made me do such a terrible thing."
He earlier pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court to first-degree rape of a child.
The sentence ordered by Judge Craig Matheson is a mandatory minimum, meaning Miller must serve all 93 months before a state board decides if he is ready to be released. Miller could spend the rest of his life behind bars if he doesn't get sex offender treatment to help show the board he no longer is a threat to the community.
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 2011.
Prosecutors charged him with the one victim, but said there are three others -- two preschool boys and a preschool girl -- not included in the charges.
During an interview with the state Department of Corrections staff, Miller told them he assaulted the one 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.
The court hearing for Miller started Aug. 20, but stopped short of him being sentenced when his defense attorney, Gary Metro, said they needed more time to see if Miller is amenable to sex offender treatment. Metro was hoping his client would qualify for a shorter prison sentence and court-ordered treatment under the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative.
Matheson listened to statements in August from the victim's mother, along with Miller and his father.
On Thursday, Matheson allowed mother Gaylynn Sweeney and father Anthony Miller to address the court about their son.
"I just want to simply add, when you hear the prosecution and the victims' families speak, it seems like they're referring to a bad person," the father said. "Lucas is not a bad person. He did a bad thing, and he's very well aware of that."
"Like (Lucas Miller) said in his testimony, it was a bad time in his life. There's a lot of things that I wish I could have recognized," he added, noting that his son had lost 80 to 100 pounds when this was going on and he didn't realize it was because his son couldn't eat. "He got very frustrated with his position (at Kids World) and he took it out in the wrong way. Lucas is very wrong about that."
Lucas Miller grabbed a tissue and wiped his eyes as his father spoke.
Miller earlier told a licensed clinical psychologist that there was no sexual motivation behind the rape, but later acknowledged for his lawyer that it was involved.
On Thursday, Metro dropped his request for a special sentence because a recent evaluation found Miller does not qualify for the treatment program.
Miller told the judge he knows there will be a treatment option for him in prison.
"I'm also going to do everything I can to learn from this experience, to get schooling and to make myself a better person. And hopefully I can come out of this better than I was when these acts occurred," he said. "As my dad said, I was in a very terrible time. I was using marijuana and other drugs, I was unable to feed myself and I was very frustrated with life. That frustration got taken out on all (the children) and for that I'm eternally sorry."
Matheson, in ordering the almost eight-year sentence for Miller, told the families of the victims "not to be offended by the comments from the (Miller) family or the defendant. It's easy to do that, but it's also wise to listen to it and think about it."
Matheson added that it is not the court's role to judge people, but the conduct of people.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org