SANTA ANA (CBS) — A Santa Ana man was sentenced on Monday to nearly 21 years to life behind bars for sexually abusing his girlfriend’s daughter and a mentally disabled girl, as well as taking hundreds of nude photos of underage girls.
Russell Lee Engleman, 49, was convicted Feb. 24 of possessing child pornography, three counts of having minors pose for pornographic photos and nine counts of lewd acts with a minor, Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown said.
Earlier in February, Engleman pleaded guilty to four counts of incest for having sex with his daughter twice when she was 17 and twice when she was 18, Brown said.
Engleman got his daughter, who was not criminally charged, to help him take some of the pornographic photos, Brown said.
Engleman had faced a maximum of 142 years and eight months in prison, and Brown initially argued for 45 years to life.
But when Orange County Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno said Monday he was inclined to give Engleman 20 years and eight months, Brown asked the judge to keep the defendant in prison for at least 30 years so it would lessen the chances of him being paroled.
“He gave these poor girls a life sentence,” Brown said. “He deserves a life sentence. He’s obviously a danger to the community.”
Briseno said he thought a great deal about Engleman’s punishment, especially since one of the victims was mentally disabled, but in the end decided that Engleman deserved the possibility of parole, no matter how slight.
“The defendant is relatively young” and there’s a chance he could get parole, Brown told the judge.
“In the environment he’ll be in, I’m not so sure,” Briseno replied.
Before the judge sentenced Engleman, one of his victims asked for the maximum punishment.
Engleman started taking nude pictures of his girlfriend’s daughter in September 2003, when she was 9 years old, in exchange for gifts such as access to his computer for web browsing, Brown said.
Eventually, Engleman began molesting the girl and then moved on to performing sex acts on her. But when she was 13 years old, she told her mother as they were about to move in with Engleman, Brown said.
“The defendant deserves to be sentenced to the maximum punishment,” the girl said. “He has affected my life in very bad ways.”
She said her grades at school have slipped and she has been prone to making “bad decisions,” because of what Engleman did to her.
“I don’t know why he did this to me. I didn’t do anything to deserve this,” she said. “My life will never be the same … I’ll never forgive him for what he’s done. All these years I’ve been letting him win, but today I win.”
The judge asked the girl how she was doing and if she was going to school every day.
“I’m trying,” she replied.
After the girl told her mother what had happened, the victim’s uncle went to Engleman’s residence in May 2008, when he wasn’t home, to look for pornographic pictures of his niece on the defendant’s computer, Brown said.
The uncle first found pictures of another nude 9-year-old on the computer and then found a flash drive containing photos of his niece, she said.
Engleman, who was the manager of a Garden Grove auto body shop, had befriended the girl’s father, a co-worker, and had the girl over to spend time with Engleman’s daughter, Brown said.
The girl posed for the pictures, taken by Engleman and sometimes by his daughter, in exchange for gifts, Brown said.
After the flash drive was found, his girlfriend’s family went to Santa Ana police, and investigators later found more pornographic photos of a 13-year-old on Engleman’s computer, Brown said.
Engleman was also friends with that girl’s father, another co-worker at the auto body shop, the prosecutor said.
Engleman told the girl he would take her to see “Pirates of the Caribbean,” but then told her to expose herself and tried to have sex with her, Brown said.
Investigators found 800 pictures of two of the girls and 575 other photos of unidentified “young girls naked and being raped” on Engleman’s computer, Brown said.
The investigators also determined that Engleman had 88 movies depicting child pornography, including one file titled, “Venezuela Girls 3-4 years old,” Brown said.
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