A young teen girl who was impregnated by her rapist told a judge Friday that even though she lost her innocence and youth, her baby gave her hope to pull out of the darkness and move on.
She asked that Christopher M. Kaauwai, 32, of Kennewick, be locked up for a long time so he doesn’t have the opportunity to groom another girl.
Yet she explained that any sentence he receives for the Benton County Superior Court case will only pale to the judgment that she and her child have to live with in society.
Judge Cameron Mitchell ordered Kaauwai to a maximum term of life with a mandatory minimum of 18 years in prison. He wanted to allow the victim to raise her child without fear of her rapist being released, he said.
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Mitchell acknowledged there’s not much the court can do to provide justice to the girl for Kaauwai’s “heinous acts,” but said he hoped in some small way the sentence would ease the pain and suffering she’s been through.
“From everything I’ve heard, you are a very strong young lady and are taking the steps to try to become the beautiful, intelligent young lady that I am sure you are able to become,” the judge said. “I wish you, your child and your family the best of luck in the future. I hope that you can move on from this.”
Kaauwai apologized to the girl and said she should know that the darkness is behind and light will now shine upon her. He claims to love her and asked that she not tell the baby about his father — to instead see the child as an angel given to her by God.
“There’s no explanation or excuse for the monstrous actions that I’ve done to you ...,” he said. “I (ignored) your feelings and I crushed your right to life and innocence.”
Kaauwai sobbed through most of the hearing but tried to compose himself to read his written statement. He said he is a heathen who deserved to be thrown out “like the rest of your trash,” and doesn’t deserve mercy or leniency for his crimes.
He had no felony history when he pleaded guilty in October to two counts of second-degree rape of a child and one count of third-degree rape of a child.
All of the charges include aggravating circumstances that he used a position of trust to commit the crimes. The third-degree rape also includes deliberate cruelty because it resulted in the pregnancy of a child rape victim.
Each charge for second-degree rape of a child carries a life sentence. That means after Kaauwai does the minimum time, his case will go before the state Indeterminate Sentence Review Board to decide if he’s successfully completed treatment while behind bars and no longer poses a threat to the community.
The girl’s mother called Kennewick police on May 3 after she took her daughter to a doctor’s office and got confirmation that she was pregnant.
Kaauwai had told the girl to lie and blame it on someone else, but she became upset and told her mother it was Kaauwai who impregnated her.
Kaauwai was arrested that same day and told police “he believed he knew what was going on,” court documents said.
The girl said Friday that Kaauwai first started inappropriately touching her in early 2012 and he groomed her so that she would be used to it as the assaults escalated over two years.
“I told him I wanted to kill myself and all he did was look the other way and continue his torture,” she said, noting that she’d never even experienced a first kiss with a boy. “All my youth went away in the blink of an eye, along with my innocence.”
The girl said she would cry and beg to see her mother, but Kaauwai made her promise she wouldn’t say anything and even threatened to take her to a secluded house, tie her up and repeatedly rape her if she talked.
“I had to fight to just wake up in the morning and go through the routine of being me. My thoughts of wanting to die just became stronger and stronger the more Mr. Kaauwai wanted to have sex with me,” she said.
She told the court that she was in denial for some time about her pregnancy and that Kaauwai took several steps to try to end it, but now she’s looking forward to thriving with her child.
Deputy Prosecutor Laurel Whittier said Kaauwai told the girl early on that his conduct was illegal and that’s why she couldn’t tell anyone.
“He understood that what he was doing was wrong,” Whittier said. “And he continued to tell (the girl) that he loved her and that he wanted to be with her.”
The girl has used the experience to educate others about teen pregnancy and even talked to students at a Tri-City school, Whittier said.
“I know this experience will not define her or define her child. I know she is going to be a wonderful mother and wonderful role model for that child,” Whittier said. “But because of (Kaauwai’s) actions she has had to become an adult at such a young age.”
Sylvia Cornish, Kaauwai’s attorney, said her client needs counseling because “he wants to understand why he would do something like this, why he would have thoughts of loving a (young teen) girl.”
Cornish had asked for a sentence of 16 years and two months, at the top of the standard range. But Judge Mitchell said the prosecutor’s recommendation — above the range because of the aggravating factors — was appropriate and just.
Kaauwai will have to register as a sex offender and, once released from prison, will be on community supervision for the rest of his life. He also was told to never again have contact with the girl, and later a no-contact order may be entered for the child too.