Wednesday, July 18th, 2007
Area man sent to prison for child's rape
By Shelley Grieshop
WAPAKONETA - A 30-year-old St. Marys man was sentenced Tuesday to a mandatory six years in prison for raping a 7-year-old girl in January.
Jeremy N. Rockwood, formerly of Columbia Street, also was labeled a "Tier 3" offender - Ohio's newest term for sexual offenders deemed the highest risk - similar to sexual predator status. Upon release from prison, Rockwood will have to register his address with the county sheriff every 90 days for the rest of his life.
In an odd twist of events, the victim's mother - who also is Rockwood's girlfriend and the mother of several of his children - came to his defense during the hearing in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court and asked the judge for leniency.
"Our family misses him," she told visiting Judge Sumner Walters prior to sentencing.
The woman, who The Daily Standard will not identify to protect the identity of the child, said she noticed "no sexual weirdness" from Rockwood. She said she knew him for six years and was sexually intimate with him for three years.
Surrounded in court by several children, the woman said she isn't convinced the rape happened at all and believes if it did, it was only because Rockwood was drinking alcohol at the time.
"I don't feel like any justice was served here. My family was torn up," she said, adding that Rockwood should not have offered a guilty plea to the rape charge.
Rockwood cried, tears streaming down his face, as the woman asked the judge not to send him to prison or at least not for the maximum 10 years. When asked to comment on his own behalf, Rockwood was emotionally distraught and had difficulty speaking.
"I know alcohol is the reason I'm here today...," he began.
He admitted his actions affected all five of his children and "the woman I love dearly," he said. "I pray every day they can find in their hearts to forgive me."
Rockwood said he has "rekindled" himself with the Lord and wants to be a better person for his family when he is released from prison.
Rockwood, who has been held in jail since January on a $500,000 bond, originally was indicted for two counts of rape and two counts of attempted rape. In May, prosecutors struck a plea agreement with him by dismissing all the charges except one count of first-degree rape, to spare the victim and her family further grief.
The original rape charges carried specifications including the victim's age, under 10, which could have landed Rockwood in prison for at least 25 years before parole eligibility. However, those specifications were dropped during the plea bargain.
According to information released in court in May, Rockwood digitally penetrated the young girl at a home in St. Marys in front of witnesses. Within hours of the assault, he was arrested. He admitted to the crime at the May court hearing.
Auglaize County Prosecutor Ed Pierce asked the judge for the maximum sentence, stating that Rockwood violated the victim's trust because of their relationship to one another and used alcohol to facilitate the crime.
Rockwood repeatedly told investigators he cannot remember the events that occurred Jan. 20 because he was intoxicated. But Pierce told the court that Rockwood's story is inconsistent because he had a "very specific memory of what he had to drink that night."
Rockwood reportedly told investigators he consumed one pint of gin and six "Tall Boys," typically a 16-ounce or larger container of beer.
Rockwood's attorney, Eric Allen, spoke little during the hearing. At one point he argued that his client did not meet criteria to be labeled a sexual predator because he was deemed a low to moderate risk to re-offend by a forensic psychologist. Allen said only 6 percent of those in that range re-offend in the first 5 to 10 years.
Allen also said the psychological reports indicated Rockwood showed no indications he was a pedophile or abusive. However, without offering comment, the judge gave Rockford the most serious designation.
Rockwood also was granted 179 days jail credit and ordered to serve five years post release control (probation) following his release from prison. If he violates court-ordered conditions he could be sent back to prison for up to three additional years.