7-year-old testifies at sentencing of Ravenna neighbor who sexually abused her and two other girls
Clutching a fuzzy white bear and wearing a bright smile, the blond 7-year-old climbed onto a stool in the courtroom and looked down at a...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Clutching a fuzzy white bear and wearing a bright smile, the blond 7-year-old climbed onto a stool in the courtroom and looked down at a pink sheet of paper adorned with stickers.
The smile disappeared almost immediately as she recounted a horror story.
Instead of celebrating the last day of first grade with her friends and family, the girl in the flowery pink dress described to a hushed courtroom a series of horrific sex acts that a former neighbor and trusted baby-sitter, Peter Ansell, forced her to perform. And she wasn't the only one.
After hearing from the girl, her parents and the parents of two other victims, King County Superior Court Judge Michael J. Fox sentenced Ansell to a minimum of 10 years in prison. But Ansell's ultimate sentence will be decided by the state's Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board, which could impose a life term.
Ansell had long been a friend of the 7-year-old's parents, as well as the parents of other children in Seattle's Ravenna neighborhood. Three families — the Ansells and the two other sets of parents — became so close that they formed a baby-sitting cooperative, allowing for trusted friends to rotate baby-sitting duties so couples could spend some adult time.
"It saved money and helped us grow closer as a community," said the father of two girls who also were molested by Ansell.
(The Times is not naming the parents who testified at Friday's sentencing hearing to protect the identities of the victims.)
But soon after the baby-sitting cooperative began in January 2006, Ansell, a father of two, started molesting the three girls between the ages of 3 and 5. The girls were raped, photographed naked, forced to watch pornography and ordered to fondle Ansell, according to testimony.
Ansell's own young children, who have since moved to Boston with their mother, told authorities they were not assaulted. The boy and girl were in the room during several of the molestations, according to testimony.
Ansell pleaded guilty last month to three counts of first-degree child molestation. His lawyer, Richard Hansen, insisted that his client only assaulted the girl who testified.
"Many of us have the perception of the sex offender or the child molester as the person living under the bridge with scraggly hair and no teeth," said King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sean O'Donnell. "The only difference between the defendant and that individual is that he's got all his teeth."
Ansell apologized and choked back a sob when he asked for leniency so he could spend time with his elderly parents outside of prison before they died. His father and sister spoke on his behalf, both saying they are confident he wouldn't offend again.
The father of the girl who testified called Ansell and his lawyer liars. His wife said their daughter was sexually abused during outings to McDonald's, Chuck E. Cheese's, at the neighborhood park and on vacations with the Ansell family.
"Her thoughts should be filled with dolls, friends and ice-cream dates," the woman testified. "[The girl] has nightmares of Peter Ansell raping her over and over and feels as if it were her fault. He not only groomed our children but he manipulated us to stay close to our children."
Both sets of parents said their daughters are still telling them shocking stories about molestations they haven't yet discussed.
The mother of the 7-year-old girl said that her daughter often asks her parents why she was molested.
"She wants to become a teacher, an advocate or a lawyer who takes pride in prosecuting monsters so she can prevent this from happening to other children," she said. "I tell her that she has saved her 2-year-old sister and our neighbor who is also 2 from having this happen to them. She is very proud."
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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