By Shelley Grieshop
WAPAKONETA -- Todd Staup of St. Marys began to weep as Auglaize County Judge Frederick Pepple on Friday ordered him to serve a total of three consecutive life sentences for raping a local 9-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy.
Staup, 37, also was labeled a sexual predator, the most serious of the sexual offender classifications, which means he must register his address with the county sheriff every 90 days for life. He agreed to the sexual predator label prior to the hearing in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court in Wapakoneta.
Staup was sentenced to life in prison a month ago for one count of rape against the boy. Pepple, at that time, decided to postpone sentencing until this week for the remaining two counts of rape against the girl.
A life sentence for Staup was mandatory by law because of the force used against the young children, and because one of the victims was under 10 years old.
No family or friends attended the hearing in support of Staup or the victims in the case. The only real decisions made Friday by Pepple was whether to order the three life sentences concurrent or consecutive to each other, and to declare which level of sexual offender classification Staup would be labeled.
A mandatory life sentence allows an offender to become eligible for parole after 10 years. Staup will be eligible for parole in 30 years due to Pepple's ruling of consecutive sentences.
Pepple and Auglaize County Prosecutor Ed Pierce both grumbled aloud in court about the lack of "truth in sentencing" in the law.
"The problem is when we say life sentences ... does it really mean life? Not really," Pierce said, adding that the local court should be the one to rule what the minimum time served is going to be.
Before sentencing, Staup's court-appointed attorney, Mark Weller of Wapakoneta, asked Pepple for concurrent sentences -- a minimum of 10 years in prison -- to allow the parole board to determine when Staup should be released.
"I don't believe he's a great risk to the public," Weller explained. "We believe this is an isolated incident and the victims will not be victimized again by the defendant."
Pepple disagreed with Weller, calling Staup a high risk for re-offending and an extreme risk to children of all ages.
"As a judge, I do not have to trust the parole board with that decision, nor in this case do I think I should," Pepple stated sternly.
Then the judge added, "If life meant life, I wouldn't have to do consecutive sentences."
Pepple said he took into consideration a 31-page document written by Staup and sent to the governor of Ohio. In the handwritten document, Staup pleaded his case and explained how he was cruelly abused as a child. Pepple said reading the lengthy document only made him more aware of how necessary it was to incarcerate Staup for a long time.
"Your risk to the public is off the charts," said Pepple, recalling Staup's prior criminal record.
Staup was convicted of corruption of a minor (having sex with a child 13 to 16 years of age) about 20 years ago.
During Friday's hearing, Pierce said reports by Auglaize County Children's Services show that Staup may have sexually abused the same girl when she was only 5 or 6. Pierce also said Staup gave alcohol to one of the victims before and after assaulting them.
Both allegations were denied by Staup and his attorney in open court.
Staup was originally indicted by an Auglaize County grand jury in February on 11 counts of rape against the children. The assaults took place between May 2003 and Jan. 29 this year. Eight of the rape charges were dismissed in a plea bargain in late May after Staup agreed to plea guilty to the remaining three counts.
Before the conclusion of the hearing, Pepple looked intently at Staup and spoke to him one last time before he was led away to prison.
"One thing you can do, Mr. Staup, when you are free is to never hurt anyone else again," Pepple said.