A former pastor who repeatedly raped his adopted teenage daughter has been given an effective 12 year prison sentence.The Knoxville News Sentinel reports prosecutors sought the maximum term of 72 years behind bars. The judge on the case, Steve Sword, took Richards work as a pastor, the support he still receives and his role key role in leading a Bible study at the prison as mitigating factors.
During his trial in February, 41-year-old David Lynn Richards Jr. had taken the stand in his own defense and asserted his innocence. He claimed that the victim, Amber Richards, was a defiant teenager who made the allegations of sexual abuse against him after he tried to impose stricter rules on his children.
The victim was 16 when she reported the abuse, saying it began two years earlier. She told authorities where they could find DNA evidence at her home and said Richards had texted her about taking their relationship “to the next level.” Authorities said they found her mattress stripped bare and his phone factory reset, but they were able to recover Forensic evidence showing traces of Richards’ semen on his daughter’s bed frame
Amber, who has chosen to identify herself and speak out after Richards was found guilty, delivered a powerful impact statement before Richards’ sentencing on Thursday.
“I wanted to throw my body away. Not a day goes by that I don’t, in some way, think of what he did to me. … I firmly believe if given the opportunity, he would victimize another young girl.”
Despite the overwhelming evidence, many in the community refused to believe that Pastor Richards was a rapist. Over 30 parishioners from the church came to court to show support not for the victim, but for the rapist.
Pastor David Thompson, who shared ministry duties with Pastor Richards at My Father’s House Church of God in Lenoir City, said:
I find it impossible for me to believe he’s guilty of this. His business needs him. His family needs him. Our church needs him.
Despite being found guilty, Richards Jr continued to maintain his innocence while asking the judge for leniency in the sentence.
I stand before you convicted of crimes I did not commit. … I’m not sure why I’m here. … but I assume it’s for His purpose.