ELYRIA — John P. Howard was sentenced to 13 years in prison Monday for abducting a 13-year-old girl off the street in Oberlin and taking her back to his home where he sexually assaulted her.
Howard, 70, declined to speak before Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski imposed the sentence, but he shook his head several times throughout the proceedings.
Howard fought the charges against him during a trial last month, but a jury convicted him of kidnapping, rape and intimidation for confronting the girl, now 15, as she was walking March 27, 2011.
Howard showed the girl a gun he had tucked in his pants and forced her to accompany him back to his nearby home.
The girl testified that Howard groped her, kissed her and forced her to perform oral sex on him.
Jurors cleared Howard of an additional rape charge that he had sexual intercourse with the girl and other charges accusing him of forcing himself on her at an earlier date.
Before releasing the girl the same day, Howard threatened to kill her family if she told anyone and ordered her to return to his house the next day to help him “clean” again.
The girl reported the attack to her mother after leaving Howard’s home.
The victim told Betleski that she was traumatized after “being hurt and terrorized” by Howard.
She said she allowed it to control her for years, even avoiding her elderly grandfather because she feared older men.
She said she has worked to free herself from that fear.
Michael Belcher, Howard’s defense attorney, passionately argued for a minimum sentence for his client, whom he said he has known for years and described as a “good guy” with no criminal record and an honorable history of service to Oberlin College.
“This is more than likely a death penalty for Mr. Howard,” Belcher said.
He said Howard suffers from several maladies, including heart, stomach and breathing problems. Howard used supplemental oxygen throughout the trial.
The victim’s mother said she felt sorry for the various medical problems that Howard suffers from, but felt he deserved to pay for his crimes.
“John Howard is not just a rapist, but a thief,” she said. “Quite simply, he stole two years of our daughter’s life.”
Throughout the trial, Belcher argued that Howard hadn’t forced himself on the girl and that he had been inside cleaning his refrigerator when the girl came to his house and kissed him.
But Assistant County Prosecutor Chris Pierre said Monday that the evidence against Howard was overwhelming, particularly the DNA evidence.
Tests found Howard’s DNA on the inside of the girl’s bra and her DNA on a pair of his underwear.
Belcher said Howard, who has been classified as a sex offender and will be required to register every 90 days following his release from prison, will appeal.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.