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BY ERIC MANN
One of the longest prison sentences in Adams County history, 90 years, was handed down on Tuesday in Adams Circuit Court to a Decatur man convicted twice times in eight years of child molesting.
Judge Frederick A. Schurger gave Andrew E. Stetler, 33, three consecutive 30-year sentences for the two latest counts of molesting and for being an habitual criminal offender. He did get credit for having been in jail here for 89 days.
The 90-year sentence was what Adams County Prosecutor Chris Harvey advocated in the sentencing hearing.
The judge made a formal declaration of Stetler as "a sexually-violent predator," noting his "significant prior history" of crimes, especially a 2003 molesting conviction in Adams County.
Stetler, who was convicted by a 12-member jury on November 16, maintained his innocence and moved orally to withdraw the guilty plea he entered on November 16 to the habitual offender charge and alleged that he received ineffective legal representation at the trial by lawyers Chad Kukelhan of Decatur and Eric Orr of Berne.
He also said one of the jurors was one of his first cousins and should not have been on the jury because of that relationship.
Judge Schurger swiftly denied Stetler's motions and noted that if he chooses to appeal, the appeal will be handled by the Indiana Public Defender's office. Harvey pointed out that, under state law, a request to withdraw a guilty plea must be made in writing, not verbally.
The molestations involved Stetler fondling and performing sex acts on girls seven and nine years old in August of 2010, although neither girl was physically harmed. Schurger said the extent of mental and emotional harm the girls suffered is not yet known.
Stetler was convicted on February 19, 2003, of a similar act of child molestation in November of 2001 on a little girl. He also was convicted in April of 2007 of failing to register with the Adams County Sheriff's Department as a convicted sexual offender.
In Tuesday's hearing, the judge read a note written to the court by the father of one of the victims in which the father called the crimes "something so appalling" and added, "I am thankful it didn't go any further."
Aside from almost a century in prison, Stetler was ordered to pay $330 in court costs and $350 in sexual assault victims' fees.
The judge, who remarked that Stetler's reformation "failed" and that rehabilitation has been "ineffective to date," ordered him to have no contact with either girl and, if paroled, to not live within one mile of either victim.
Stetler will not be eligible for parole until 45 years from now, when he would be 78 years old.