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Nofsinger to serve 60 years

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Man sentenced on federal child porn charges now faces murder trial

By The Staff

By SHANNON WATKINS
Staff

ABINGDON – Three mothers and a grandmother testified Feb. 28 in federal court about how Richard Denny Nofsinger Jr. had adversely affected the lives of young girls through sexual contact and making pornographic videos of them.
All four wept, sometimes to the point of near incoherence while speaking; and all four described Nofsinger as a “monster.”
They spoke with deep grief about the rifts visited upon their families and the ongoing, possibly permanent, inability to trust others and feel safe anymore.
Videos found in Nofsinger’s possession showed a pattern of behavior that went back at least a decade, according to testimony, and the prosecution described how Nofsinger repeatedly befriended young mothers to gain access to their children.
After hearing from these witnesses, as well as U.S. Secret Service special agents, Judge James P. Jones sentenced Nofsinger, 37, lately of Galax, to 60 years in federal prison, to be followed by life under supervision in the outside world if he should survive to such age.
The sentence was issued at the end of his approximately 90-minute sentencing hearing in the U.S. Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon on Tuesday morning.
Nofsinger pleaded guilty last year to three of eight counts of producing child pornography. The evidence for the federal case was found on cell phones and other electronic devices when Nofsinger was under state investigation for a double homicide case in Galax last year.
He is charged with the capital murder of Anastasia Alley, 21 months old, and the first-degree murder of her mother, Alyssa Kenny, 28, both residents of Galax, on March 10, 2016.
A state trial for the murder cases has not been set. Prosecutors have been waiting for the federal case to wrap up before proceeding.
The federal prosecution, conducted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Bockhorst, had pursued the maximum 90-year sentence, while Nofsinger’s defense, Randy Cargill of the Roanoke Office of the Public Defender, aimed for the minimum of 15 years.
Nofsinger, in prison fatigues, remained calm and quiet during his hearing.

U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Matthew Halin took the witness stand first to inform the court that evidence of child pornography was found among all of Nofsinger’s devices – five cell phones, several memory cards, a laptop, flash drives and DVDs. A total 356 exploitative images of children were found, along with four videos edited into eight shorter videos; two were of sexual contact with adults and children.
Halin further outlined that the still images appeared to have been downloaded from websites, while the videos were apparently manufactured on Nofsinger’s devices.
“You found images that did not seem to be downloaded, plus videos he himself produced?” asked Cargill.
“Yes,” said Halin.
Cargill asked if they had been distributed by Nofsinger.
“Not that I can tell,” said Halin.
U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Leslie Cochran testified that in her investigations she had been shown a video of a holiday gathering. Nofsinger and a female appeared, followed by a scene of him giving a bath to a minor female, 2-3 years old.
When asked by Bockhorst if the video was, in her opinion, of a normal bath for a small child or something inappropriate, Cochran answered, “Portions were shot in a manner to highlight the child’s genitals and that he was bathing her.”
Under questioning, Cochran said she was able to identify Nofsinger.
There were also still photos on Nofsinger’s phone, said Cochran, mostly downloaded from the internet; the videos did not appear to have been uploaded to the internet but nobody knew for sure.
When the video was shown to one of the women called in to assist the investigation, she identified the child – known only to the court as “Victim A” – as her daughter.
In his cross-examination, Cargill determined from Cochran’s testimony that the video was viewed by Cochran on a disc containing evidence taken from Nofsinger’s phone.
(Earlier in the hearing, Bockhorst submitted for clarity that originally some of the videos were actually part of one longer video Nofsinger had made, but edited into separate parts.)
Cargill ascertained that in the video, shot in Tennessee, Nofsinger was bathing the child “and at times touched her in ways more than needed to give a child a bath?”
“Yes,” replied Cochran.

The mother of Victim A — not identified by her name, either — testified that it was almost her daughter’s third birthday when the video was made; now, she is 12. The prosecution used this fact to point out that Nofsinger’s behavior was a longstanding pattern.
The mother of Victim A said that she knew Nofsinger through dating and living with him over a period of six to eight months.
Cargill had no questions for her.
In his testimony, U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Greg Watson said he established that Nofsinger’s wife — long separated from him, and who was not in the courtroom — had turned in a recording of Nofsinger from 10-12 years ago, molesting Victim A. According to Watson, Nofsinger’s wife said she had stashed the recording with a relative rather than turn it in to police, as she was afraid of him because he was abusive.
Watson said that Nofsinger’s wife related an incident in which he pushed her from a deck into a lawnmower, causing her severe injury.
Through further questioning by Bockhorst, Watson determined for the court that in this and other videos produced through the investigation, four victims were identified, all minor females; and that Nofsinger had lately kept no permanent residence, staying with various friends and leaving his belongings scattered at their homes.
The defense had no evidence to present.

At this point, three mothers and a grandmother of the victims came forward to give statements. Jones said they were not to be identified by their names, which would be kept in sealed records, and were not to be sworn in or cross-examined.
Accompanying them in court were a federal victims’ advocate and Dawn Staples of Justice for Children Without Voices, a Virginia-based children’s advocacy group.
Their testimonies, taken as a whole, painted a picture of vulnerable, mostly young, women who were glad to have found a friend, and a predator who took advantage of their faith. At least one said that her daughter, now five, was acting out sexually with toys as a result of the molestation.
The grandmother of one victim said, “My babies have been affected by this monster.” Because her granddaughter and daughter alike had been “traumatized” by the abuse, behavioral health issues and regular counseling were now part of their family life.
“To see my daughter in pain and not be able to help … She and I are really struggling,” she said.
Six months old at the time of the abuse, her granddaughter is now a year-and-a-half old. “I hope she never has to cross his path again,” said the woman. “My child and my granddaughter have to start all over trusting, to live their own lives again without fear. As a grandmother I pray God will help this family heal.”
She continued, “I trust and believe in the court’s and justice system’s ability. [Nofsinger] should not be on the street. He should be behind bars as long as he lives. I want my daughter and granddaughter to live long and happy lives. He needs to be removed from society.”
Another young mother, who said her child was five months old when Nofsinger molested her, rose to address the court next. “Richard Nofsinger sexually touched my daughter,” she said. “Thank God he was caught when he was. This has opened my eyes about who not to trust. I have moved out of the house I was living in, knowing this monster had been there and done this to my baby.”
The young woman continued, “It’s hard being a single mom with kids. I just hope I can get back on my feet. Richard Nofsinger needs to be stopped. I don’t know if I can forgive myself for letting this monster in my home. I feel like people look at me differently.”
Another young mother told the court of a particularly horrifying awakening. “We met in 2015. I thought of him as a friend, let into my home, trusted him. Then I discovered about him when I had to go to the Galax Police Department knowing nothing, and had to watch videos. It was my three-year-old daughter in those videos. My whole life changed that day.”
She described her child’s current behavior and demeanor as “fearful, depressed, distant, anxious,” and said her daughter now “talks to a big bad man in her room named ‘Ricky.’ I told her he cannot ever get to her again. She thinks about what he did to her.”
“I have to think about the fact that I let him into my home, and that’s something that I will have to remember for the rest of my life. No one should ever have to go through anything like this again. Bring this man to justice. My heart goes out to these children.”
Another young mother gave her statement: “I knew him. I cared for him,” she said of Nofsinger. “Instead of kindness, he gave betrayal. I was a druggie, I was a lost soul.”
According to her, Nofsinger would wait until she was seeking or doing drugs and use this absence to harm her daughter, which she did not know about at the time. She noted that she is in recovery now, but, “He used my trust and my better nature to hurt my 7-year old daughter. He tried to steal her innocence. I’ve lost all my trust in people. He took away our serenity. To look at my daughter and realize I didn’t protect her from this monster. I want him to suffer like I do every day.”
Victim A’s mother rose once more to state, “This altered our lives in so many ways I can’t begin to name them. Even though it’s his fault, I will always feel like it’s mine. Will this impact every future relationship I ever have?”
Bockhorst, who until this point in the hearing, and during previous court dates, had appeared composed, was audibly rattled and on the verge of tears when she spoke to the judge again.
Though it was originally alleged that Nofsinger’s actions to sexually abuse children and produce child pornography occurred over several months, the 2007 video given by his estranged wife “establishes that this man’s crimes go back at least 10 years,” Bockhorst said. “He was a drifter, had no real home, thus it is impossible to assess the real scope of his crimes. He has ravaged mothers and their daughters in ways we cannot understand,”

Cargill, in his closing argument, noted that Nofsinger was born and raised in Southwest Virginia; has four children and three stepchildren; “worked his entire adult life” in sawmills, furniture factories and building maintenance. With electrical plumbing and carpentry skills, he was “good with his hands and proud of it.”
Cargill further noted that Nofsinger, while a Category 5 criminal — the second worst class by federal sentencing standards — he is not a typical one. “He has a much smaller record,” than a typical Category 5 offender, with only just under two years ever in jail.
“What he did, basically, is filmed two small children in the nude and touched them inappropriately,” said Cargill. “He did things that qualify as sexual acts, but with respect to the victims, these acts are far less aggravated than acts you see normally. He did not physically harm them and did not distribute the videos.”
A sentence of 90 years, as Bockhorst’s requested, “basically is asking for him to die in prison,” and described the maximum sentence as “unduly harsh and unreasonable.”
He also cast doubt on the fairness of the request, saying he was not fully certain that state homicide charges against Nofsinger were not being inappropriately considered in sentencing.
“[Nofsinger] will have his day there [in state court],” cautioned Cargill. “What will happen there will happen there.” He asked for a sentence “fair for what he’s being tried for here and pled guilty for here.”
He concluded, “I could tell Ms. Bockhorst was very moved by [the witnesses’] words. I myself am a father.”
Cargill asked for the minimum sentence of 15 years, adding, “I think sometimes we in federal court don’t realize how long those sentences are.”

Bockhorst offered a final rebuttal, saying that Nofsinger not only molested children in recent years but, “we established today that his behavior stretches back a decade. He is not safe in society. It is incumbent upon us to prevent future little girls from the harm of molestation.”
She pointed out that, while investigators don’t believe that Nofsinger uploaded any of the videos of him molesting children to the internet, there was no absolute certainty in the matter.
She again asked for the maximum of 90 years.
Nofsinger declined to say anything on his own behalf, but said to Jones, “My life is in your hands, your honor.”
Jones assured the court that in sentencing, he was considering the nature and circumstances of the crimes, Nofsinger’s criminal history, the need to punish him, the need to protect society and similar concerns.
Jones also reiterated that “state charges will be handled by the state and have no bearing on the federal case whatsoever.”
However, he said, “It is clear that his acts were calculated in nature, obviously meant to be preserved for future viewing by himself and perhaps for others.”
Jones expressed hope that, due to their very young age, the victims will not remember what happened to them, but acknowledged that it has “caused great anguish to their families.”
Owing to this and his opinion that in Nofsinger’s case, “the danger of recidivism a likely one,” he said, “A crime like that calls out for very severe punishment” and handed down the sentence of 60 years, saying that Nofsinger “will serve his entire sentence in prison.”
Nofsinger would have to live to 97 to achieve access to the outside world again, but, said Jones, “In the event he lives long enough, he will be placed on supervised release.”
He would also be placed on a sex offender registry, undergo drug tests, submit to the collection of his DNA by parole officers and pay a monetary penalty, if released.
Jones also noted that Nofsinger had waived his right to appeal the sentence.
Nofsinger’s sentence was based on 30 years incarceration for each of the three counts.  He previously pleaded guilty to the second, sixth and eighth of eight total counts placed against him in federal court; the sentences for the second and sixth counts are to be served concurrently.
Though a penalty could have ranged from $50,000 to $500,000, Jones waived the fine in this case.

Outside the federal courthouse after the hearing, Acting U.S. Attorney Rick A. Mountcastle thanked “the brave victims who came forth today to address the court of this disgusting offense upon their lives and their families.”
Speaking about the 60-year prison term, Mountcastle said, “what that sentence did was remove a truly dangerous serial predator from the community. This defendant targeted single mothers to gain their trust for the purpose of molesting toddlers and babies so he could film himself engaged in sexual acts with the children. The defendant did these despicable acts with very young children – toddlers and babies – on multiple occasions with multiple victims.”
Mountcastle said that although children are safer with Nofsinger sentenced to federal prison, “I implore parents to be cautious about who you trust with your children. One of the primary purposes of the legal system is to protect vulnerable members of society and the community, and the most vulnerable of those are children.”
Mountcastle commended the Galax Police Department and the U.S. Secret Service for carrying out that purpose.