A former Jefferson Street resident was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years to life for molesting a child who was younger than 10.
Jason P. Wooten, 36, pleaded guilty at the same Huron County Common Pleas Court hearing to one count of rape. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss one count of gross sexual imposition, four charges of sexual battery and three more rape charges.
"The balance of the indictment will be dismissed," Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said about the plea agreement with defense attorney Tim Dempsey.
Wooten and his attorney declined to address the judge Wednesday.
Leffler said another part of the plea deal is the state agreed not to pursue further charges in connection with suspected incidents in Norwalk and Bellevue.
Leffler said his office had attempted to contact the victims or their custodians, but weren't able to do so. However, he said he contacted the social worker involved in the case and spoke to the lead investigator, Huron County Sheriff's Detective Kayla Zander, who said she was confident the victims would be comfortable with the outcome of Wooten's case.
"This individual (Wooten) had a prior sex offense, He knew what he was doing," Leffler said. "In fact, the victim is less than 10 years old. ... He couldn't help himself."
In the late 1990s, Wooten served three years in prison for felonious sexual battery. The conviction is through Cuyahoga County.
"When police were investigating the (local) matter, the defendant was cooperative and admitted he was involved in that activity," Leffler said.
Judge Jim Conway ruled there was "no force involved" in the rape of which Wooten was convicted.
Another suspect in the related case, Justin D. Collins, 20, also formerly of Jefferson Street, has a new trial date of Jan. 4. He waived his right to a speedy trial Tuesday after he obtained a new attorney, Nancy Jennings. Huron County Public Defender David Longo had been representing Collins, but according to court records, was removed from the case recently for an unspecified reason.
Collins is charged with three counts of rape in connection with incidents in late March and mid-April of this year and between December 2011 and March 2012. He also faces one charge of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor stemming from a mid-June offense. Collins remains in custody at the Huron County Jail, unable to post a $125,000 bond.
Conway, the judge, said Collins' new defense attorney requires more time to look over evidence in the "complex case." The judge also mentioned there have been "brief negotiations that are ongoing" with prosecutors.
Collins was arrested in July after Wooten brought two daughters of his live-in girlfriend to the sheriff's office to report ongoing sex abuse reportedly committed by Collins and an 11-year-old boy.
The boy has entered denials to three counts of rape, one charge of attempted rape and two counts of gross sexual imposition through Huron County Juvenile Court. He is on electronically-monitored house arrest and must undergo a psychiatric evaluation, according to court officials.
Investigators learned Wooten also had been sexually abusing the girls for years. He was taken into custody a few days after Collins was arrested.
Deputy Rich Larson, who helped investigate the case, has said Wooten "admitted to having sexual intercourse with both the (older) girls primarily at the Bellevue address and molesting the girls at the Norwalk address."
The two older girls told their mother they were being sexually abused by her live-in boyfriend, Wooten. The suspected incidents happened over a four-year period in Norwalk, Bellevue and possibly Lakewood. Juvenile court officials have said despite having that information, the mother didn't take any action to protect her children.
Leffler talked about the situation Wednesday in court. He said Wooten notified authorities about the sexual activity happening in his home, but neglected to mention "his own involvement."
Juvenile court administrator Chris Mushett gave an update to the Reflector this week about the living status of the various victims.
Mushett said two 10-year-old girls, who were found to be abused, are in the temporary custody of their father. Mushett also said a 3-year-old girl and two boys, ages 4 and 5, -- all whom have been found to be dependent -- are in the temporary custody of their maternal aunt. The children are under the protective service of the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services.
"There are three fathers and one mother involved in all this," Mushett said.
Sheriff Dane Howard has called this one of the most disturbing cases of his law-enforcement career.
"One of the most sickening things is (Wooten) brought two of the girls to this office ... in an apparent parental role," Howard said earlier. "All the while, he'd been hurting the children himself. I can't imagine what these children have gone through the last several years."