GALLIPOLIS — A Gallipolis man pleaded guilty Thursday in the Gallia County Court of Common Pleas to the rape of his two nieces.
Bruce Johnson III, 21, was subsequently sentenced to spend life in prison with no eligibility of parole until after 15 years and will be registered as a Tier III sex offender.
Johnson admitted to the rape of his juvenile nieces. The children at the time of the crime were reportedly 2 and 4 years old, respectively. As part of a plea bargain, Johnson admitted to one count of first-degree felony rape.
Gallia County assistant prosecutors Britt Wiseman and Eric Mulford represented the state during the Thursday proceeding. According to Wiseman, had the case gone to trial, the state would have proved beyond a reasonable doubt Johnson committed the crimes by presenting testimony from Gallipolis Police Department Detective Justin Rice, as well as Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents, and testimony and evidence gathered by a sexual assault nurse examination and the nurse who conducted it.
Johnson was arrested Feb. 13 by GPD after an incident report to police in October 2015.
A representative for the victims’ mother spoke and presented the mother’s written message during the court proceedings.
“Today is the day that I can finally say that I’ve gotten justice for my two beautiful girls,” the representative said. “You (to Johnson) not only stole their innocence, but you have literally destroyed two lives that may never be the same. No one should ever go through what you have put our family through. Because of your disgusting actions, you have ruined how my girls look at male figures in their lives. It took them a very long time to go and see their grandfathers and uncles as good people instead of people that may hurt them. Not only do they suffer from the physical damage you inflicted on them, but also mental and emotional pain.
“My girls looked up to you and trusted you,” the representative continued. “You took advantage of that. I pray that we can recover from this tragedy and I get my girls back on track to a healthy and productive life.”
As a Tier III sex offender, Johnson must register with the sheriff every 90 days for life, if he is ever placed on parole. In addition, he must register any change of residential address, place of employment or enrollment in a school or institution of higher education. Tier III sex offenders are also subject to having the community notified upon a change of address. The sheriff will notify all neighbors within 1,250 feet of the offender’s address. The sheriff’s office will also notify all schools, day cares and law enforcement agencies within that radius.
“It’s essentially a life sentence with only the possibility of parole after 15 years,” Wiseman said. “Our main focus was a life sentence for this guy. We were ready and willing and able to proceed to a jury trial, if necessary. However, after speaking with the victims’ mother, we thought this was a good resolution not having to put her (and family) through a couple days of having to hear testimony and laboratory evidence. We thought this was the best route and gets him locked up for life.”
Wiseman went as far to say as he was “hopeful that (Johnson) doesn’t even get out after 15 years.” He felt the possibility of that was highly unlikely, but said the decision would ultimately be up to a parole board. The assistant prosecutor said the prosecution conferred closely with the victims’ mother and felt she was satisfied with the outcome. The prosecutor’s office said it also did not want to risk a jury trial when it had a life sentence in the form of a plea bargain.
“Today marks a new beginning for the girls and their family. This sentence allows them to move forward to grow up free from the danger of this predator,” said Gallia Prosecutor Jeff Adkins. “I have no doubt these girls will persevere and will go on to do great things in their lives. I applaud them for their strength throughout this entire prosecution and wish them all the best.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.