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Man could serve 20 years after pleading guilty to rape

A 61-year-old man who sexually assaulted a girl for more than six years could be ordered to serve 20 years in prison.

James Robert Wirrell has pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court to first-degree rape of a child and two counts of second-degree rape of a child.

Sentencing for the Benton City man is tentatively set for Jan. 12, but that date could be postponed if a state Department of Corrections presentencing report is not completed before then.

According to court documents, the abuse started in 2003 in another state. Wirrell initially inappropriately touched the grade-school girl and groomed her so that it escalated to a sexual relationship when she was a pre-teen, documents said.

The sexual abuse also occurred at various homes and motels in Benton County.

Prosecutors claimed that Wirrell would show pornography on a portable DVD player to the girl, and buy her clothes and presents.

In an interview with detectives, Wirrell admitted to sexually assaulting the victim, along with another teen girl about 22 to 25 years ago, court documents said.

All three of Wirrell's charges include the aggravating circumstance that he used his position of trust with this victim and that the crime was part of an ongoing pattern of sexual abuse.

The aggravating factors will make it an indeterminate sentence, meaning the judge must order a mandatory minimum term but Wirrell's ultimate release date will be decided by the state Indeterminate Sentence Review Board. That will be based on whether he participates in treatment or other programs while in prison.

Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra said when Wirrell admitted guilt, he did it knowing that she plans to ask for an exceptional sentence of 20 years because of those circumstances.

Richland man sentenced to 9 months for stalking

A Richland man will do nine months in jail for stalking his ex-girlfriend by making threatening remarks and gluing objects to her car.

Steven Douglas Oster, 44, received the sentence for his guilty plea to one count of stalking with domestic violence.

He entered an Alford plea earlier this month, meaning he denied committing the crime but believed prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.

"While I deny that I am factually guilty, I wish to take advantage of the plea offer offered by the state," Oster wrote in his plea statement. "I understand that if a jury heard the evidence that the state would produce and if the jury believed that evidence, I would be convicted. I understand that despite my denial of factual guilt, this plea makes me guilty of the crime charged."

As a part of the deal, a second charge for residential burglary with domestic violence was dismissed.

The 28-year-old victim told Richland police in September that she had been experiencing ongoing problems with Oster since early July. The two lived next door to each other, according to court documents.

The woman called police Sept. 4 to report a malicious mischief and burglary at her home. Officers found a couple items glued to the victim's car, including "a Taser device," documents said.

The items belonged to the woman, who said they had been in her home. She told officers that Oster was the only person who knew she kept the Taser in a nightstand drawer.

The victim claimed that Oster had "routinely made threatening remarks to her," and had gone into her home and taken her property on prior occasions, court documents said.

Police then learned that in August, Oster had written derogatory messages to the victim on paper plates and glued those plates to her car, documents said.

The woman also alleged that Oster had broken a pane of glass in her back door with his head and a window, and removed fence boards to come into her backyard.

In the plea agreement with Oster and his lawyer, prosecutors said an exceptional sentence below the standard range "is appropriate in this case based upon potential evidentiary problems, as well as the risk to (Oster) should the state prevail at trial."

Deputy Prosecutor Megan Whitmire, in asking the court to accept the nine-month recommended sentence, wrote that the parties believe the resolution holds Oster accountable and "reduces risk to both sides should the matter proceed to trial."

Oster's criminal history includes two King County convictions from 2000 for felony no-contact order violations and a possession of drugs.

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