… Man sent love letters to 8-year old, but no sexual contact reported …
By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun
12:33 PM EST, January 7, 2011
A former Columbia teacher’s aide who wrote dozens of love letters to an 8-year-old third grade girl at his school — but never had any physical sexual contact with her — was sentenced to seven years in state prison Friday in a precedent-setting sexual abuse case.
Over prosecutor Mary Murphy’s objections, Howard County Circuit Court Judge Diane O. Leasure allowed Karl Marshall Walker Jr., 39, to remain free on bail pending an appeal of his conviction to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
Louis P. Willemin, the Deputy District Public defender who represented Walker, said he would appeal because Walker is the first person in the state convicted of sexual abuse without having physical sexual contact.
“He manipulated and cultivated this child’s feelings to make himself feel good,” Murphy told Judge Leasure, reading a series of excerpts from the letters in which Walker said he had thoughts of kissing her, expressed “extreme jealousy” of the girl’s other friends, and said he’d fantasized about taking the Bryant Woods Elementary student to Las Vegas with him.
Murphy said Walker was “grooming” the child for abuse, though Walker has consistently denied any sexual intentions. The prosecutor asked for a sentence of seven to 13 years under state sentencing guidelines. The Sun does not name the victims of sexual abuse.
Willemin said Walker had fallen into a depression over money problems in September, 2009, when the love letters began, and used his contacts with children at school to boost his sagging ego. He, his wife and their two children were evicted from their apartment in August, and his wife, a lawyer, separated from him, though she wrote a letter on his behalf that was read in court describing his work with their autistic 11-year-old son.
“There was no suggestion in all of these [pre-sentencing] evaluations that he intended to go any further” with the 8-year-old, Willemin argued, suggesting there is little chance Walker would ever do anything like this again.
Sniffling as he spoke, Walker apologized profusely.”What I did was incredibly stupid and I’m sorry,” he said about the damage he had caused to the child, her family, the school and his own family. “Right now, she sees me as a danger. Right now, she sees every adult as a danger,” he said of the victim.
He vowed to pursue mental health treatment and “get my mind right.”
Leasure said that despite a defense request that Walker be sentenced to under 18 months in the Howard County Detention Center, “It is my view that this is not a case where a sentence below the guidelines is appropriate.”
She then sentenced him to 13 years in prison, with all but 7 years suspended, followed by 5 years supervised probation.
“I thought it was an appropriate sentence,” Howard County State’s Attorney Dario Broccolino said after the judge finished speaking. Broccolino said he’s also “confident” the conviction will stand on appeal.
Walker was found guilty in September by Judge Leasure. According to evidence at his trial, the former Bryant Woods Elementary aide wrote numerous love letters to the child, but Murphy did not present any evidence that he physically abused any children.
“I can’t live without your love. My heart beats 1,000 times a minute. … You are my girl,” Walker wrote, according to excerpts from the letters Murphy read aloud in court during the trial. Walker, who was married with two children, worked at Bryant Woods for three years, was banned from the school last March after one of the letters was found by a student teacher as furniture was being moved.
He consistently denied any sexual intent to county police detectives, according to evidence at the trial.
His defense was that he was overly friendly to several students, and that while his notes and letters to this one child revealed a “strange and inappropriate emotional attachment,” according to Willemin at trial, they were not illegal.
“There is no evidence of sexual contact,” he told the judge during trial. Walker had told police detectives that he gave children candy and then began giving them money after he was told giving candy was inappropriate.
Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun