A Lubbock County jury has sentenced a man to life in prison for sexually assaulting his 15-year-old stepdaughter back in January of 2010.
Friday morning it only took the jury two hours to find Henry D. Sanders, 37, guilty of sexual assault of a child. The jury found that Sanders is legally married to the victim's mother. This raised his charge to a first degree felony since the child is a person the defendant was "prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry."
Earlier in the week, Sanders took the stand denying any inappropriate sexual activity with his stepdaughter, who is now 17, but during the sentencing phase his story changed.
Already found guilty, when Sanders was testifying for sentencing his attorney asked "Did you do this? Be honest."
After a pause, Sanders replied "Yes I did it. I'm sorry. I'm not perfect, and I make mistakes. If the evidence says I did it, then I just want to put this behind me."
The victim's godmother also took the stand during sentencing. She told jurors she was a victim of abuse herself, and that she has stood by the victim, telling her to stay strong and to stand up for herself.
Right before the jury was dismissed to make a decision, the State prosecutor made a closing argument that made some of the jurors cry.
"When she is 25 years old, she will remember this. When she's 35, she'll remember. When she's 45, that girl will remember. She won't forget it. Don't let him," said State Prosecutor Jennifer Bassett. "It's her life. Hand it back to her. He earned life in prison."
In less than 15 minutes, the jury did just that, handing down a life sentence. The victim let out a huge gasp, while Sander's sister began to cry.
Outside the courtroom, one of Sander's friends, said to be his new girlfriend, had to be escorted out by sheriff's deputies after she made a scene - screaming and yelling curse words.
Sanders is now at the Lubbock County Detention center. He will be eligible for parole in 30 years, and will have to register as a sex offender.
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