Oak Harbor step-mom fights special sentencing for sex offenders
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
April 19, 2011 · Updated 12:44 PM
An Oak Harbor woman is campaigning to change a law that allows certain sex offender to forego a lengthy prison terms in exchange for treatment in the community.
Amber Truex said she was upset that the man who raped and molested her 11-year-old stepdaughter numerous times was sentenced to just a year in jail under the Special Sex Offender Sentencing, or SSOA.
“I was absolutely in shock that a person can do something that horrible to a child and only get a year in jail,” Truex said. “We just thought that was not nearly enough.”
Truex said she’s not upset with the deputy prosecutor who made the deal. She admits she agreed to go along with the plea bargain and sentencing recommendation in order to save her stepdaughter from having to testify against the man who abused her.
But in retrospect, she said she was upset that such a sentencing alternative even exists for people who sexually abuse children. Under state law, a SSOSA may be granted in lieu of a prison sentence under certain conditions and requires some jail time together with outpatient treatment and supervision.
“There’s no special sentence for someone who robs a bank,” she said. “I don’t see why a child molester should be treated differently.”
Truex said she hopes to get the law changed so that sex offenders who abuse children under the age of 12 don’t qualify for a SSOSA. She’s currently working on the effort with advocates from Citizens Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the county’s domestic and sexual abuse agency.
For Truex, the nightmare began last year. Her 11-year-old stepdaughter disclosed that her uncle had raped and molested her on a regular basis, beginning when she was just 8 years old.
The uncle, 22-year-old Casey Eskildsen of Oak Harbor, admitted to detectives that he sexually assaulting the girl numerous times and began inappropriately touching her when she was just 6 years old. Truex explained that the assaults occurred at her home when Eskildsen looked after her children for brief periods, and also at the home of the victim’s grandmother, where Eskildsen lived.
Deputy Prosector Colleen Kenimond said it’s the policy of the prosecutor’s office to never recommend a SSOSA unless the victim and the victim’s family agrees. In this case, she presented the idea to the family in order to save the victim from having to testify and to avoid a trial that would be difficult on the family. Also, she noted that Eskildsen admitted what he did, is still young and seems amenable to treatment.
As a result, Eskildsen pleaded guilty to first-degree rape of a child and first-degree child molestation. Under a plea bargain, both the defense and prosecution recommended that he be sentenced under SSOSA and Judge Alan Hancock agreed at a hearing last month.
Under the terms of the agreement, the judge sentenced Eskildsen to a year in jail and ordered him to complete a minimum of two years of sex offender treatment, at his expense. He will be a registered sex offender and will be supervised by the Department of Corrections for life.
“If he doesn’t succeed, he ultimately goes to prison,” Kenimond said, adding that a SSOSA “provides accountability and a huge external motivation for offenders to be successful.” She said SSOSAs are important tools for prosecutors to have, in certain cases, because it can keep kids from having to take the witness stand.
“That’s huge,” she said.
Ultimately, Kenimond said Eskildsen is less likely to hurt another child if he gets appropriate treatment.
“He’s going to get out no matter what,” she said. “If we don’t change his behavior, the community is at risk.”
Still, she doesn’t object to Truex’s effort to change the SOSSA law.
“I absolutely understand how she feels,” Kenimond said. “That child is going to need a great deal of help.”
Truex, on the other hand, believes the community would simply be safer if Eskildsen received the maximum sentence, which would have been more than 13 years in prison. She said he didn’t apologize at the sentencing hearing and showed no remorse to the family.
Truex said her stepdaughter wasn’t happy about the sentence either.
“She was so upset,” Truex said. “She said, ‘I don’t even know why I told.’”
The abuse, Truex said, has caused tremendous and irreparable harm to the young girl. She’s been suicidal and has been hospitalized.
“Nothing is going to take that away,” she said. “Even if he went to prison for 50 years, it wouldn’t take that away.”Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.