Was the sentence too small? Mothers of sexual abuse victims unhappy with attackers’ jail timeHe was someone they trusted, someone who became like family. He took their daughters to the park and swimming pool and taught them how to sing, “Jesus Loves Me.”
By: By Mike Nowatzki , Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
MOORHEAD, Minn. — He was someone they trusted, someone who became like family. He took their daughters to the park and swimming pool and taught them how to sing, “Jesus Loves Me.”
Then, in two vile acts, Jon Ralph Pabody shattered the innocence of two of his wife’s day care children —ages 3 and 7 — and the lives of those around them, their mothers said at his sentencing Monday.
“You are not a man. You are a monster,” the mother of the older victim, now 9, said through tears in Clay County District Court.
Sitting handcuffed at the defense table in an orange jail jumpsuit, Pabody wept and nodded his head in agreement. Later, the Moorhead man apologized for bringing pain and shame to the victims, their families and his own family. He told Judge Galen Vaa that he wished he could do things over.
“I know they’re angry, and they have every right to be angry with me,” the 54-year-old said. “I’ve done something horrible.”
Vaa sentenced Pabody to 13 years and four months in prison after reluctantly allowing the older victim into the courtroom to watch the proceedings.
Wearing a royal blue T-shirt with the words “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child” printed on the back, the 9-year-old girl sat in the front row, flanked by supporters also dressed in blue shirts with “Keep sexual predators away” printed on the front. A reference to scripture graced the back of the shirts: “Jesus said it would be better to tie a millstone around your neck and drown yourself in the sea than it would be to lead one of his little ones astray.”
After turning the podium toward Pabody, the mother of the younger girl said her daughter “has lost the one thing that belonged to her: It is her innocence.” She said the girl has trouble sleeping because of nightmares, and the only thing that comforts her is crawling into bed with her mom.
“It tears my heart because it feels like I failed my daughter as a parent,” she said. (The Forum is not naming the mothers in order to protect the identity of the victims.)
Pabody turned himself in to police in March, saying he had molested two girls at the home day care where he helped his wife. That day care and an offsite center, ABC Infant Daycare, have since closed.
In a negotiated plea deal between the defense and prosecution, Pabody pleaded guilty last month to one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in each of the two cases. To spare the victims the stress of a trial, the state agreed to knock about 20 months off Pabody’s sentence, Assistant County Attorney Pamela Harris said.
Pabody must serve at least two-thirds of his prison term, or nearly nine years, behind bars.
Vaa ordered that upon Pabody’s release, the state shall petition to have him civilly committed indefinitely as a sexually dangerous person or as having a sexual psychopathic personality, or both.
Under Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, Pabody, who had an otherwise clean criminal record, was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 144 months and 160 months, as opposed to consecutive terms.
The victims’ mothers, as well as Vaa and Harris, agreed Pabody deserved more prison time.
“It troubles me that that is the result in this case,” Vaa said.
The mother of the younger victim said she will lobby the Legislature to change state law to require mandatory life sentences for people in positions of authority convicted of sexually abusing children.
Pabody must register as a predatory sex offender for life. Should he not be civilly committed, he will be on conditional supervised release for life.
His victims, who are in counseling, also will have lifelong effects from the abuse, their parents said.
A victim impact statement from the 9-year-old was read aloud in court.
“I feel happy because you are in jail,” it stated. “Sometimes I feel scared that you will come and take me and hurt me.”
Prior to Monday’s hearing, Vaa ordered the 9-year-old removed from the courtroom. He then questioned her mother, who said the girl wanted to attend and deserved to have the closure of seeing Pabody go to prison.
“She has the right to be in here, just as he has the right,” she said.
State law didn’t allow Vaa to bar the girl from the courtroom, but he said he personally thought it was a bad idea and could cause her emotional stress.
After the hearing, the girl emerged from the courtroom smiling.
“Maybe this will give some closure and she’ll sleep better,” her mother said.
Mike Nowatzki is a reporter
at The Forum of Fargo-
Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.