Child rapist sentenced to 60 years
IRONTON -- A 69-year-old Lawrence County man on Monday received what is likely a life sentence in prison after he pleaded guilty to 15 counts of raping three family members over an extended period starting about two decades ago.
Donald Copley of Crown City was sentenced by Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Charles "Chuck" Cooper to 60 years in prison for the rape of three girls starting in mid-1991.
Copley raised the three sisters after the girls' father, a relative of Copley's, was charged with abusing his oldest daughter, said Lawrence County Prosecutor-elect Brigham Anderson. The three were taken into custody of Lawrence County Children's Services and subsequently placed in the custody of Copley and his wife, Doris.
The three victims came forward last year, and Copley was indicted on 51 counts of rape. The trial was set to begin Monday, but Copley pleaded guilty to five counts of rape against each of the three sisters.
Anderson said the 60-year sentence "is not something the Ohio parole board will look at," meaning Copley is likely to die in prison.
All three victims gave statements in court Monday. The Herald-Dispatch generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.
"Since the age of 7, I have lived my life in fear," said one. "It's affected every single aspect of my life. After this moment, I will forget him and never think of him again."
"This man has hounded our lives," said the oldest of the three victims. While all three have moved out and away from Copley, she still feels she should have done more to protect her younger sisters. "We have tried to move on," she said. "I want to know how people could hurt children."
Anderson said the girls were 13, 7 and 6 when they said the rapes started. If there is any message to come from the court proceedings, Anderson said, it is that victims should come forward to the authorities and report the abuse.
"It's important for the victims to have their day in court," he said. "We were prepared for trial today. It was not going to be an easy trial. This was not reported until the fall of 2011."
"I have lived in fear my entire life," said the youngest sister. "I'm glad we got justice," she said after the sentencing.
Anderson said the details of the long-term sexual abuse "are very troubling." He asked Cooper to consider the physical, emotional and psychological suffering of the victims.
Copley acknowledged the pain he has caused the three, said Robert Crapence, a Columbus lawyer representing Copley. He said Copley pleaded guilty to spare having the three testify in the case.
"He has shown remorse," Crapence said. "There are no winners here today. This family has been torn apart, primarily by the actions of Don. I do hope his family can move past this and that the future will be better than the past. These are horrible offenses."
He said Copley also was a victim of sexual abuse when he was a child. Crapence said his client has been a member of a local Baptist church for about a dozen years. No appeal will be filed in the case, he said.
"I'd like to admit my guilt," Copley said. "I don't know why it happened. I thought we had moved on when I found God. Don't hold what I have done against my family."
Doris "Beverly" Copley, Copley's wife, also faces about 20 counts of complicity to rape. Those charges likely will be amended to child endangerment in an upcoming court appearance, Anderson said. That case currently is not set for a pre-trial.