Homeless man who molested girl: 'I feel like a monster'

Homeless man who molested girl: 'I feel like a monster'

URBANA — A homeless man who repaid the kindness of an Urbana family who sheltered him by sexually molesting their young daughter is headed to prison for 21 years.

Judge Heidi Ladd said there was much to despise about the actions of Josh A. Roberts, 29, who pleaded guilty to predatory criminal sexual assault of a child.

But perhaps "most egregious," the judge said, was that "this happened in her own bed — the one place that especially a young child should have the right to feel safe and secure."

Roberts will have to serve 85 percent of the 21-year sentence, the recommendation that Assistant State's Attorney Lindsey Clark agreed to make when he pleaded guilty to the Class X felony offense in late July. He could have received anywhere from six to 60 years. His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Amanda Riess, sought eight to 10 years.

Clark dismissed other counts of predatory criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse in return for his guilty plea.

Roberts was given credit for the almost 15 months he's served in the county jail since his arrest on June 24, 2017, shortly after the child cried out from her basement bedroom and her father found Roberts leaving out a sliding glass door.

"I feel like a monster. I'm tired of feeling this way. I'm tired of hurting people," a sobbing Roberts told the judge before she imposed his sentence. "I feel like there's two of me and that I'm constantly at battle. I don't understand it."

Clark presented evidence to enhance Roberts' sentence, including testimony from Terre Haute, Ind., police Sgt. Marc Phillips, who described a May 2009 assault on a motel housekeeper that led to Roberts' conviction for sexual battery in Vigo County, Ind.

Lt. Jenna Good, who handles discipline issues at the Champaign County Jail, said Roberts went from being a trusted inmate with work privileges to being disciplined for several "major rule infractions," including stealing women's underwear, passing notes to female inmates, masturbating in front of a mental-health worker and walking around naked.

Urbana police Detective Betsy Alfonso testified that on the night of the molestation of the young girl, Roberts was sleeping on a pull-out couch in the open area of the basement while the husband and wife whose house he was in were upstairs watching a movie. He entered the sleeping child's basement bedroom and touched her breasts and genitalia and forced her to touch his.

The father heard his daughter crying and saw Roberts leaving. The parents immediately called police and Roberts was located at a nearby grocery store, where he gave police a false name and said he had no identification.

Alfonso said police patted him down because of a bulge under his shirt and found a half-empty alcohol bottle and identification with his real name.

Police also learned he was wanted on a warrant out of Crawford County for failure to register as a sex offender, a charge that was dismissed as part of Roberts' admission that he molested the child.

Both of the girl's parents read aloud for Ladd statements about the impact Roberts' actions have had on their family.

The father said he thought he was doing the right thing by opening his home to a man less fortunate.

"I never would have imagined you would molest one of my children," he said, adding he was "appalled, disgusted and saddened" by Roberts' action.

The child's mother's voice broke as she spoke of feeling helpless to protect her daughter and the family's inability to feel safe in their own home.

She said she's become far too familiar with the work of sex-assault nurse examiners, police and prosecutors, observing it takes a long time for evidence to be returned.

"Time doesn't dampen a child's desire to have her own blankets back," she said.

She called her daughter, "a survivor, not a victim."

Clark argued that Roberts' past actions show he cannot be deterred but said the public deserved protection from him.

"This defendant is a predator in the truest sense," she said, citing the child, the Indiana motel worker and the mental-health counselor at the Urbana jail as examples.

Riess argued that Roberts' mental-health problems and his alcoholism were at the heart of his criminal actions. She said his "deteriorating" behavior in the jail since July when he pleaded guilty was likely a "coping mechanism."

Roberts apologized to the family he victimized, saying that he was "sick and disgusted with myself, too."

Ladd said Roberts' four prior felonies and his failure to take advantage of opportunities to deal with mental-health problems and alcoholism in prior court cases showed his lack of rehabilitative potential. She rejected the suggestion that alcohol was the reason for his behavior, noting he was engaging in perverted acts in the jail while sober for more than a year.

"He's now left two victims in his wake. There must be no more," she said.

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