Gibson City man gets 35 years for repeated sexual assault of girl

 

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PAXTON — Before sentencing Ryan Todd Schoolcraft to 35 years in prison Monday for repeatedly sexually molesting a girl beginning when she was 11 years old, a Ford County judge heard testimony and evidence alleging the 43-year-old Gibson City man had previously had inappropriate sexual contact with at least three other girls, including one who gave birth to his first child.

Prosecutor Lorinda Lamken noted the "numerous victims" of Schoolcraft's conduct in asking Judge Matt Fitton to impose a 40-year sentence instead of the 16-year term requested by his attorney, Maureen Williams.

Fitton, however, ultimately settled on a 35-year sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections, of which Schoolcraft will be required to serve at least 85 percent.

Schoolcraft, who was immediately remanded into the custody of the Ford County Sheriff's Office until he is to be sent to prison, will receive credit for the 61 days he has already served in the county jail.

Following a three-day jury trial, Schoolcraft was convicted on Jan. 11 of two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, a Class X felony, and one count of criminal sexual assault, a Class 1 felony. Under truth-in-sentencing guidelines, he faced a mandatory sentence ranging from 16 to 135 years in prison.

The charges stemmed from the repeated sexual assault of a girl he had known since she was 4. Lamken said the molestation began when the victim was 11 and continued until she was nearly 16.

"It wasn't a one-time thing," Lamken said. "There were numerous incidents when this defendant went into the bedroom and sexually assaulted (her)."

The victim, who earlier testified at trial, told the court Monday that the abuse caused her mental trauma and that she continues to have nightmares as a result of it.

"The thought of him doing this again is unimaginable and sickening," said the victim, now 16.

In laying out aggravating factors for Fitton to consider in imposing a sentence, Lamken called two women to the witness stand — both of whom claimed they engaged in sexual acts with Schoolcraft when they were juveniles and he was in his early 20s.

Schoolcraft was never charged with any crime in connection with the alleged conduct.

One of the women, now 35, testified that she met Schoolcraft when she was 11, and they started dating and having sexual intercourse when she was 15 and he was 22.

The woman said she started living with him a couple of months before she turned 17.

"At first, we got along really good; he was really sweet," she said. "But he progressively got more violent. There was physical abuse sometimes, and also he would call me names and put me down."

Schoolcraft, reading a letter to the court, described himself as a "broken man."

"I truly am sorry," he said. "I am sorry to everyone in this courtroom today who has suffered through all of this."

Before imposing a sentence, Fitton said he believes that Schoolcraft feels genuine "sorrow" for what he did, but other factors greatly outweigh his remorse.

Fitton noted that the seriousness of Schoolcraft's crimes should carry a penalty serious enough to deter others from committing the same offense.