Thomas J. O’Donnell Sr. sexually abused the girl while she was riding with him during various tow truck jobs in Erie County, Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said. The prosecutor said the “initial touching” led to sexual conduct that lasted through July 22 in Huron County.
“It was utterly shocking. I’ve known him for seven years,” the victim’s mother told the court. “He’s the last person I thought would harm a child.”
The woman said O’Donnell, who hung his head while she spoke, “destroyed my child’s innocence.”
During Thursday’s hearing, O’Donnell, 40, of Eastlake, was labeled a sexual predator. That means he will have to register his address with the sheriff’s office for the rest of life on a quarterly basis. O’Donnell pleaded guilty to one count of rape during the same Huron County Common Pleas Court hearing.
In a plea deal, the state agreed to dismiss the balance of the defendant’s early August indictment — two counts each of rape and three charges of gross sexual imposition.
Local prosecutors have said O’Donnell first raped the victim in Sandusky and then molested the girl twice later in Huron County. The July 1 incident came to the attention of the Sandusky Police Department on July 24. Erie County authorities later agreed the Huron County Sheriff’s Office would handle the investigation.
On July 25, the mother brought the girl to The Bellevue Hospital emergency room, complaining of “sexual abuse by a family member” that started three weeks earlier, Lt. Randy Sommers said earlier. Sommers and an investigator with Huron County Children Services then looked into the allegations.
“There was some planning,” Leffler said. “There is no excuse for this.”
The girl’s mother said she spoke to O’Donnell earlier about inappropriate relationships after he had sex with another female relative.
“I don’t understand what goes on in someone’s mind who does that,” the woman said. “At least for the next 10 years, kids will be safe. I don’t think people like that will change.”
O’Donnell has no automatic right to an appeal and isn’t eligible for early release from prison.