July 25, 2002 – A judge on Thursday sentenced a man to 17 years in prison for repeatedly raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter. The girl's mother remains a fugitive since she was convicted of failing to stop the sexual abuse.
Sucre Henriquez, 43, a native of the Dominican Republic living on St. Thomas, fell to his knees and held his handcuffed arms before him as he told Territorial Court Judge Ishmael Meyers that he never had sex with the girl.
"I swear to you and I swear to society that I never had sexual contact with this girl," Henriquez said before he was sentenced.
Meyers said he was bound by a jury's decision in June to convict Henriquez of six counts of aggravated rape, unlawful sexual contact and child abuse. The judge then sentenced Henriquez to 17 years in prison. The rape charge carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life.
Assistant Attorney General Douglas Dick had recommended a 25-year sentence, while defense attorney Stephen Brusch asked that his client receive the 10-year mandatory minimum. Brusch indicated he is compiling evidence to appeal the conviction of Henriquez.
At trial, prosecutors presented testimony from the girl and medical evidence that Henriquez had had sex with her several times between August 1998 and April 1999.
The jury also convicted Henriquez' common-law wife, Maria Pellier, 32, of four counts of child neglect and failure to report sexual abuse. The girl testified that she told her mother as many as nine times that Henriquez was having sex with her, but Pellier did nothing to stop the assaults, prosecutors said.
Pellier, a native of the Dominican Republic who was living on St. Thomas illegally, left the courthouse while the jury was deliberating the case on June 7 and did not return to hear the verdicts. Meyers issued a warrant for her arrest the following Monday, but marshals have not been able to find her.
"We suspect that she went back to the Dominican Republic, but that's just a guess," Dick said Thursday. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has a detain order out for the woman, he said, and marshals are working with federal agents and foreign authorities in looking for her.
Meyers said on Thursday that he would sentence Pellier in absentia on Aug. 26 if she has not been located. She faces up to 15 years in prison on the neglect charges.
The girl now lives with her biological father in Puerto Rico, where she appears to be doing well, Dick said.
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