CINCINNATI (AP) -- A man captured in Mexico and convicted of the 2005 rape and kidnapping of a 9-year-old Ohio girl was sentenced on Thursday to multiple life prison sentences and designated a sexual predator in southwest Ohio.
Alfredo Lopez Cruz was sentenced Thursday in Hamilton, about 35 miles north of Cincinnati. A Butler County jury last month found him guilty of one count of kidnapping and four counts of rape in the case, which raised tensions and led to unrest in the racially diverse neighborhood where the crime occurred.
A Butler County Common Pleas judge sentenced Lopez Cruz to three consecutive life sentences with no eligibility for parole for at least 10 years on each sentence for three rape counts. The judge also sentenced him to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for at least 10 years on the fourth rape count, with that sentence to be served concurrently, county prosecutor Michael Gmoser said.
The kidnapping conviction was merged with the rape counts for sentencing purposes, the prosecutor said.
The now-teenage girl testified that Lopez Cruz grabbed her off her bicycle, took her inside his house and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. She said he hit her in the face and she ran home naked after he fell asleep.
Lopez Cruz fled the country before he could be indicted, but Mexican and U.S. authorities worked together to take him into custody last year and move him back to Ohio.
Lopez Cruz's attorney did not immediately return calls for comment Thursday.
The sentencing should serve as a warning to anyone considering such crimes that he or she will be found "no matter how long it takes," Gmoser said. "We have the resources, the ability and the time."
Reports that the Caucasian girl was raped by a Hispanic man who fled stirred tension among Hispanics and some other residents of Hamilton, with some Hispanics saying that they were being targeted. Hispanics said that they were threatened and that some people in Ku Klux Klan garb went into the neighborhood.
The home where Lopez Cruz was staying was vandalized, with windows broken and the words "child molester" spray-painted on the house, the day after the assault. It was destroyed by fire a day later.
Jason Riveiro, former state director of the Ohio branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said he believes the tension between Hispanics and others in the community has eased but the crime contributed to "a lingering suspicion of immigrants."
"Unfortunately this painted a negative picture of Hispanics in the minds of some," he said.
He said he hopes the sentencing will help ease any lingering tensions from the crime.
The executive director of an inter-city ministry in the neighborhood is also hopeful but has doubts.
"I don't know that the community will ever be the same," said Cathy Hester, of Hamilton Living Water Ministry. "I am afraid that there probably always will be racial tensions, and some of them may have been triggered by this."