November 1, 2012
LIMA — A tearful Trisha Steele dabbed her eyes with tissues after she received the news she would serve five years in prison for the one count of rape she pleaded guilty to in September.
Allen County Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Warren gave her the five-year sentence Thursday, with the mandatory sentence being three to 10 years.
Steele, 31, struck a deal with an Allen County prosecutor that she would plead guilty to one count of rape in exchange for the drop of a life specification on the charge, which specifies the child is under 10, plus two other counts of rape, and the understanding she would testify against her co-defendant, William Purdy.
According to Assistant Allen County Prosecutor Terri Kohlrieser, Steele and Purdy, 38, raped a 6-year-old girl sometime between Jan. 28, 2005 and Oct. 25, 2005.
Purdy, Steele’s former boyfriend, was convicted on Oct. 22 for six rape charges for sexually assaulting a child under the age of 10. He could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Kohlrieser expressed her struggle in determining a recommendation for Steele’s sentence, because if not for her testimony in Purdy’s trial, he probably wouldn’t have been prosecuted, she said.
“Two things I have to make perfectly clear. The first one is that Trisha Steele raped a 6-year-old child. She participated in it willingly. Now, I know she was scared of Mr. Purdy and I actually don’t dispute that,” she said. “But she was fully cooperative in this court. She came in here and testified to all the nitty-gritty details of what happened. The plain and simple truth of this matter is that William Purdy most likely would not have been prosecuted and I highly doubt that he would have been found guilty if it were not for this defendant coming forward.”
With that conflict, Kohlrieser recommended a sentence of five to seven years at Warren’s discretion. Warren said he thought the saddest part of the situation was that the little girl still loved Steele, despite her actions.
“You knew what you did was wrong and this was not just a one-time occurrence. It was two or three times,” he said. “The sad part of it is, in your testimony, I remember during the trial, that sometime after this incident, after you had broken up with Mr. Purdy, you were somewhere, the fair, or someplace and the victim runs up to you and hugs you and loves you. She loved you.”
Warren also reflected on the amount of rape cases the court has seen in the past six months.
“The court has to do what’s right in its mind to protect the public and send a message to others. That’s a lot of responsibility and the court takes that seriously,” Warren said Thursday. “In the last six months or so, we have had, it seems, an overriding number of convictions and allegations of rape by stepfathers, fathers and grandfathers. It’s wrong. It’s against the law.”
Steele was allowed her time in court to speak and apologized again for the rape.
“I just want to say that I’m very sorry and ashamed of what I did,” she said, her face red. “I hope you’re lenient with your sentence.”
The victim’s mother attended the sentencing but elected not to speak.
“I don’t believe the victim’s mother, who is here today, wants to speak today, but she has provided an impact statement. This is a very emotional thing for her,” she said. “She understands, too, what this defendant did for her daughter in the trial, but she also knows what she did seven years ago.”
And Warren shared some of her impact statement before he sentenced Steele, quoting part of it.
“I can’t help but think of what the victim’s mother says in her statement to the court that really jumps out at me, ‘Sometimes you reap what you sow. You reap what you sow,’ he said. “People have to understand that there are dire consequences to these illegal disgusting acts.”
Steele, who had never committed any prior offenses, will receive credit for the 112 days she’s already served and she will be eligible to earn credit time while in prison.
He also ordered her five years of post-release control, a mandatory DNA specimen collection and he ordered she has to register as a Tier III sex offender wherever she resides for the rest of her life within three days of residing in any particular county.
Purdy’s sentencing is set for Nov. 14.