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Child molester gets 260-year sentence

POSTED: May 24, 2007 5:02 a.m.
A Hinesville man convicted of  molesting three children received a 260-year sentence Monday.
Steven Atwell, 42, originally faced 20 counts of aggravated child molestation in connection with incidents against three children over a 10-year period, according to Liberty County Sheriff’s Department Det. Julie Hibbeler.
The original counts were  eventually pleaded down to nine.
The detective said Atwell began molesting a brother and sister in 1997 for several years and another girl in 2001.
The sibling’s were 7 to 8 years old when the abuse started.
The brother and sister, now in their 20s, came forward and gave a statement to Hibbeler in January 2006.
“When I began the investigation, I found photographic evidence in Atwell’s possession of the children backing up their story. In addition, Atwell confessed to molesting one of the girls,” Hibbeler said.
She noted Atwell used a device to inflect pain on the girls while performing sexual acts.
A presentence investigation was conducted by Liberty County Adult Probation Officer Denise O’Neal, who interviewed the victims. The information was then presented to Superior Court Judge Jay Stewart, who sentenced Atwell on Monday. He’ll serve a minimum of 90 years.  
“Today I saw why I am a police officer. We sometimes see child molesters get way with a light sentence, but today I saw were the department made a big difference in making sure he never hurts another child again,” Hibbeler said.
Prosecutor Melissa Poole said the sentence Atwell received for the molestation charges are the stiffest she can recall. “It’s the highest sentence for those type of charges.”
Atwell had been offered a 40-year sentence during the plea bargain stage, but rejected it. Atwell took his chances before the judge who decided to impose the sentence he was given.
Poole said she was happy over the turn of events. “My victims were very pleased by the sentence. It was the first real smile I have seen on their faces since they came forward to report it. I personally am pleased with the sentence the judge handed down.”
Atwell will become eligible for parole, but that determination would be up to future parole boards.
He did not have a prior offense record.
 

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