A Richland man who served as a church deacon for three decades is going to prison for sexually assaulting two grade-school girls.
Robert G. DaValle, 75, was sentenced in Benton County Superior Court to a minimum term of five years and seven months.
However, he could be behind bars for the rest of his life since it will be up to a state board to decide when he’s ready for release after doing the mandatory minimum.
DaValle pleaded guilty in May to two counts of first-degree child molestation. He apologized on Tuesday to the victims and their families.
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Defense attorney Scott Johnson asked for a Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative, which would have resulted in a suspended prison term while DaValle got treatment in the community.
Judge Carrie Runge denied that request and went with a sentence within the standard range.
DaValle told a community corrections officer that he used to work at Hanford, Bechtel and Energy Northwest, retiring from the latter after 20 years.
A history of Christ the King on its website states that DaValle was one of the parish’s first permanent deacons, ordained in 1986.
He also served as an instructor for adults taking baptism classes, provided church tours for students and adults, ministered to the sick at Kadlec Regional Medical Center, and visited with parishioners in rehabilitation and assisted-living facilities and at home, according to a 2011 report by Christ the King.
It was noted in the community corrections officer’s presentencing report that DaValle said “his church involvement meant very much to him. However, due to the circumstances, he has not been able to face his church community.”
Richland police first learned of the molestations in June 2017 when one of the girls told her youth group leader that she had been inappropriately touched when she was younger, court documents said.
The other girl then made a similar disclosure to her parents.
During his police interview, DaValle admitted sexually assaulting both girls and mentioned a third girl. He gave specific details about the molestations, documents said.
He did not meet the victims in the case through the church.
DaValle, who was free after posting bond after his arrest, has been locked up since his May guilty plea. This was his first criminal conviction.