OTTAWA — An elderly Cloverdale man was sentenced here Friday morning in Putnam County Common Pleas Court to life imprisonment on nine child sexual abuse charges.
Larry Burkhart, 77, 11420 State Route 634, had been found guilty by Judge Keith Schierloh of three counts of rape, each a first-degree felony; and six counts of gross sexual imposition, including three third-degree felonies and three fourth-degree felonies, during a trial to the court on May 18-19.
On Friday, Schierloh sentenced Burkhart to prison sentences totaling 50 years to life. This included a 25-year to life term on the first count of rape.
He also classified Burkhart as a tier III sexual offender — the most serious level — requiring lifetime registration with authorities if he is released from prison.
The allegations — returned by an October Putnam County grand jury — concerned sexual conduct and sexual contact with two young girls.
During Friday’s hearing, Burkhart said he was not guilty of the offenses, claiming that in at least one instance the inappropriate contact was unintentional.
However, Schierloh responded that he listened to the victim’s testimony and found it “very convincing.” Too, he noted that Burkhart had made an incriminating admission of inappropriate conduct during an interview with authorities.
“I didn’t think I did anything wrong,” said Burkhart.
However, Schierloh said he found his explanation “very difficult to comprehend,” noting that Burkhart is an educated man who had taught college.
“You’re smarter than that, and the court just doesn’t buy your explanation for that.”
In a statement read Friday on the victims’ behalf before sentence was pronounced, the physical and psychological impact of the incidents was described as “beyond words.” The girls were involved in therapy, according to a person who read the statement.
A restitution order was not requested, but a plea for “justice” on the victims’ behalf was made.
Putnam County Assistant Prosecutor Todd Schroeder who handled the state’s case had requested that Burkhart be given consecutive sentences.
The defendant’s attorney, Hayden Capace of Worthington, asked Schierloh to show as much leniency as permissible toward his client, who he said suffers from several health ailments. Too, he noted that Burkhart has no criminal record and is not a “violent, aggressive” man while “a lot of love and support for him” from his family has been apparent.