Tuscola man sentenced to life in prison
TUSCOLA — A Douglas County judge has sentenced a Tuscola man to spend the rest of his life in prison after he was found guilty of molesting two young girls with "feeling" and "tasting" games in his home.
On Tuesday, Judge Mike Carroll sentenced David M. Harshbarger, 35, to natural life in prison.
A Douglas County jury found Harshbarger guilty in January of two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
Carroll sentenced Harshbarger to natural life in prison on the two predatory criminal sexual assault of a child counts and five years each on the three aggravated criminal sexual abuse counts, with the latter sentences to be served consecutively.
Carroll also ordered Harshbarger to pay applicable fines, to submit DNA samples to the state police and to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
"This sentence renders justice for the victims and protects the community and society at large," said Douglas County State's Attorney Kevin Nolan, who prosecuted the case with Assistant State's Attorney Kate Watson.
During Tuesday's hearing Harshbarger denied he had committed the crimes.
"I didn't do whatever everybody is accusing me of," Harshbarger said.
The acts occurred during 2010 at two different homes that Harshbarger lived in in Tuscola. Nolan said one of the girls was repeatedly molested; the other was victimized only one time that authorities knew of.
Nolan said the molestation took place during sleepovers at the Harshbarger home and at times when Harshbarger was the only adult present.
According to Nolan, the Tuscola Police Department began investigating the case in May 2011 after one of the girls told her mother. That woman then contacted the mother of the other victim — the families knew each other — and they immediately reported their suspicions to the police.
The girls were interviewed by professionals at the Child Advocacy Center in Charleston. Harshbarger was formally charged on May 6.
During the trial, Harshbarger admitted playing the games with the girls and his own children but denied ever engaging in any inappropriate behavior.
Carroll denied a motion by defense attorney Paul Vanni of Carbondale for a new trial.
Vanni said a new trial was needed because he wasn't allowed to present arguments about an alleged earlier incident involving one of the victims and another person.
But Nolan said there were no police or Department of Children and Family Services reports to support Vanni's allegation.
Staff writer Mary Schenk contributed to this story.