Melvern man sentenced to life in prison for child rape

A Melvern man was sentenced to life in prison today in Osage County District Court after being convicted in April of raping a child. Ronald L. Hartpence Jr., 38, Melvern, will serve 25 years before being eligible for parole, according to the sentence imposed by Chief District Court Judge Phillip M. Fromme.

Hartpence was arrested Jan. 4 and charged Jan. 8 in a complaint that alleged that he had sexual intercourse with a child younger than 14 years of age on two occasions between Sept. 1, 2011, and Nov. 27, 2013, and on another occasion during the same time period engaged in lewd fondling or touching of another child younger than 14 years of age.

In April, Hartpence entered a plea of no contest to one rape charge, through his attorney James Campbell.

During the start of Hartpence’s scheduled preliminary hearing on Feb. 19, a young witness’ emotional plea to not testify kept the hearing from proceeding. During a motion hearing in March, Hartpence waived his right to a preliminary hearing and the case was scheduled for arraignment April 21, when he entered his plea.

At the June 16, 2014, sentencing, a family member read a statement written by the victim in the case, identified as a child younger than 14 years old at the time of the crime.

In the statement, the girl accused Hartpence of changing her life forever “for what you chose to do. You took away my innocence and some other things God gave me,” she said. “Even though I got hurt really bad, I’m still very strong.

“I’m not afraid of you … you will not hurt me no more,” she said. “I want you gone forever and I’m glad you are going to jail.”

The court also heard a statement from a man who identified himself as the victim’s father, and who referred to other alleged victims in the case, saying Hartpence’s conviction would have to serve as justice for them, also.

“This isn’t just her justice, this is for the other ones hurt by you, too,” the man said.

The man also asked Hartpence to reveal more information about the crimes he was accused of.

“You know things this court needs to know to help them,” the man said. “Please don’t let these kids keep suffering, let the truth help.”

Before imposing the sentence, Fromme informed Hartpence of his right to offer a statement to mitigate the sentence.

“I want to tell everybody I apologize for what all I’ve done,” Hartpence said.

Following Hartpence’s statement, Fromme said that a conviction under Jessica’s Law required a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for 25 years, which the court imposed. Fromme also said Hartpence will be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life.

After tallying court, fingerprinting, DNA, and child advocacy fees at $830, which are to be paid by Hartpence, the judge remanded the prisoner to the custody of the Osage County Sheriff’s Office. Hartpence will be transferred to the Kansas Department of Corrections to serve his sentence.


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