LIMA — Barring a change in state law sometime in the future, a 22-year-old Lima man will die in prison after being sentenced Wednesday in Allen County Common Pleas Court to a term of life without the possibility of parole for raping a 9-year-old boy.
Avery Ward was showed little emotion when the sentence was handed down. He apologized the his victim, who was in the courtroom, as well as the boy’s family before being sentenced.
Jurors deliberated for less than an hour in December before finding Ward guilty of rape and felonious assault. The incident took place on the evening of Dec. 5, 2018, in a Brower Road apartment. The felonious assault charge was filed because Ward carried out the sexual assault knowing he was infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
Judge Terri Kohlrieser heard from the victim’s mother and grandfather during Wednesday’s hearing, and a representative of the Crime Victim Services office read aloud a statement written by the young boy.
Assistant Allen County Prosecutor Randall Basinger asked Kohlrieser to impose the maximum sentence on Ward, calling that fact that Ward knew he was HIV positive but nonetheless forced himself sexually on the boy a key factor in the “heinous” case.
“It is horrifying that this young man was put in a position not only to endure this assault but then to be forced to tell others what happened,” Basinger said.
The boy’s mother fought back tears as she, too, asked for the maximum sentence. She said her son has been traumatized by knowing he could be infected with the AIDS virus.
“A 9-year-old should never have the live with the fear of death,” she said. “(My son) is not the same kid he used to be. He’s depressed and lonely and he has nightmares” about the incident.
In his note to the court, the boy said Ward “took my boyhood away. I’m not the same kid I was a little over a year ago.”
During Ward’s trial, the boy testified via videotape that on the night in question Ward, who had visited the home on several occasions, “picked me up and laid me down on the bed, face down. He held me down. He pulled down my pants and underwear to my ankles and he took his pants off.”
The boy said Ward then forcibly had anal intercourse with him “for two or three minutes” while his young sister watched from the closet.
Afterward, “he said if you tell anyone I will hurt you and your sister,” the youngster testified.
After sentencing Ward to life in prison, Kohlrieser directly addressed the victim.
“You are a very brave boy. You did the right thing when you chose not to be silent,” the judge said. “Going forward you can choose to do better than what was done to you, and I hope you do.”
Defense attorney Steve Chamberlain asked Kohlrieser to consider a sentence of life in prison with the option of parole at some later date.
“Redemption may not be in this world for my client, but I think we have to show there is a quality of mercy we have that allows for the possibility of redemption,” Chamberlain said.
Kohlrieser addressed that request during sentencing.
“Mr. Chamberlain, this court does believe that everyone has the opportunity for redemption. But being behind bars does not mean he cannot redeem himself.”