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Man gets 18 years for sexually abusing six girls during sleepovers

By John Futty • Mar 6, 2018 at 6:21 PM

COLUMBUS (TNS) — Opening statements were all that Darvin W. Russell needed to hear in his trial for sexually abusing a half-dozen preteen girls at his Columbus home after enticing them with offers of cash and gifts.

After the case against him was outlined for a Franklin County jury on Monday, Russell asked if there was still a chance for a plea agreement to avoid a trial.

Russell, 52, quickly pleaded guilty to four counts of rape and three counts of child endangering.

Common Pleas Judge Chris Brown sentenced him Tuesday to 18 years in prison for crimes that, had he been convicted at trial, carried a maximum penalty of life without parole. The judge said he placed "great weight" on Russell's decision to spare the victims from testifying.

"It's a minor act of grace for an otherwise horrific person," Brown said.

Two of the rape victims, both of whom lived with Russell but weren't related to him, were prepared to testify with an emotional support dog by their sides.

"We were manipulated and used, and no sentence he can get will ever make up for what was done," one the victims, now 15, told the judge during the sentencing hearing. "We are all scarred for life."

The judge heard from seven relatives of the victims, who said the girls are forever changed and are in counseling.

Russell declined to make a statement. After his release from prison, he must register as a sex offender every 90 days for life.

Assistant Prosecutor Kacey Chappelear said in her opening statement that two of the victims were abandoned by their mother and left in Russell's care in 2012 when they were 6 and 8 years old. The other victims were friends of the girls and were abused during sleepovers at Russell's house, mostly during the summer of 2016 at a residence in the 3600 block of Alum Creek Drive on the South Side.

She said Russell groomed his victims, ages 8 to 12, by taking them on outings and buying them gifts before coaxing them into stripping in front of him or playing "naked gymnastics." Some were offered cash in exchange for sex. The rape charges involved three of the girls, Chappelear said.

The abuse was revealed after a grandmother heard about the sleepover "games" and contacted the relatives of other girls who visited Russell's home.

One of the girls who lived with Russell spoke through tears about being abused for four years. She said she felt responsible for what happened to the friends that she invited over.

"I apologize to every single one of them, and I'm really sorry," the 13-year-old said, weeping. "I feel like it's my fault."

The judge encouraged her not to blame herself and commended all of the girls for their bravery.

jfutty@dispatch.com

@johnfutty

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