A Massachusetts woman arrested in December 2011 on allegations of statutory rape and child molestation was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years behind bars and 30 years of probation.
Jenica Smith, who temporarily was living in Allenhurst as a nanny for her aunt’s children, pleaded guilty to eight counts of child molestation and five counts of statutory rape in a Superior Court hearing with Judge Paul Rose presiding.
She also must register as a sex offender and will not be allowed to have unsupervised contact or reside with anyone under the age of 18. Her access to the Internet also will be restricted, and she will be subject to frequent searches and polygraph tests.
Initially, Smith faced 22 counts that included aggravated child molestation, statutory rape and child molestation, according to Assistant District Attorney Melissa Poole. Smith’s crimes took place between May and December 2011, and she had seven victims ranging in age from 13 to 15 years.
It is the Courier’s policy not to name victims of sexual abuse. However, testimony from three parents indicated Smith lured the boys with cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana while they played basketball.
Because Poole and Public Defender John Ely could not agree to a sentence, witnesses from both sides offered emotional testimony in an attempt to influence Rose’s sentencing.
When offered a chance to speak, Smith’s message was abbreviated: “That I’m sorry.”
Cracking the case
Smith’s activities with the boys came to light Dec. 5, 2011, after a neighbor called police and reported what he or she believed to be a burglary in progress on Retriever Way after the neighbor saw a male in the backyard of Smith’s residence.
When authorities responded, Smith told them she had just gotten out of the shower and saw the teen by the window and told him to leave. She said she told the boy to leave but did not call police because she knew him and he had watched her shower before.
Upon questioning, the 13-year-old boy reported Smith had asked him to come by and watch her shower. The teen also said he and six other acquaintances had been sexually involved with Smith, who, at the time, was 25.
‘Not enough time in the world’
The mother of the boy whose presence in Smith’s yard garnered law-enforcement attention was the first prosecution witness. The woman, whose name is being withheld to protect her children’s identities, said her 13- and 14-year-old sons both were sexually involved with Smith.
“He was embarrassed about the situation. He said he had asked for something to drink, and I’ll never forget it, he said that she told him it was Kool-Aid, and he said he drank it and after that he said, ‘Mama, I wasn’t feeling well,’” she recalled, adding that one of her sons had several learning disabilities that Smith “took advantage of.”
“He is not the same child; neither one … I’m dealing with one who shuts down. He doesn’t like to talk. I try to give him a little counseling and he feels like an embarrassment,” she said. “[The other one] is like sex, sex, sex … she took advantage of them.”
Poole asked if the woman had an opinion on the appropriate sentence.
“It wasn’t one child, it was two,” the woman said. “She knew what she was doing. And she continued to keep doing it. I just want to see justice … for all these boys.”
Parents of two more 13- and 14-year-old brothers who also were victimized spoke, and they expressed frustration with themselves for not knowing what was going on so close to home.
Since the incident, the boys’ mother said, one of her children has become withdrawn and antisocial, while the other has tried to put the matter behind him but has aggression issues.
“This is a girl who befriended me, who came to my house, swam in my pool, came to barbecues, and this whole time she was raping and molesting my kids and giving them alcohol,” the mother said with tears in her eyes. “I just don’t understand how I didn’t see what … she was doing to these kids.”
The woman became more upset, said she was nauseous and left the stand.
The boys’ father cried as he said his sons’ innocence was shattered by Smith, contrary to the family’s choice to “make a better life” in Liberty County.
“If this was a case where a man had been molesting several girls, everybody and their cousin would know about this,” he said. “Unfortunately, it happened to be the boys.”
The father said too often people hear about child sexual abuse and assume it won’t happen to them.
“I don’t know what else to say. She’s a sick woman … she’s a monster in her own way,” he said. “We don’t believe in those things these days, you know, it always happens to the people next door or to the people in New York City, it doesn’t happen in Liberty County — well, your honor, we have this young lady who came from God knows where, and came to our county … and she violated our children. As far as the sentencing goes, there’s not enough time in the world.”
Smith’s family asks for her to come home
Testifying on Smith’s behalf were her parents, Tracy and Scott Smith, and grandparents, Bette and Henry Hamel. They all asked that Smith be allowed to return to Phillipston, Mass., where she resided with her parents, held a job and sought psychiatric care while on bond.
Each said the behavior described is out of character for Smith, who they said also was a victim of sexual abuse as a teenager.
“I’m sorry to hear all this. It seems out of character for my daughter,” Tracy Smith said. “This doesn’t happen to normal families. I consider our family, how she grew up, to be a normal family. These things, they are hard to hear for any parent, whether it’s us or the family of these victims. It’s heart-wrenching on any family to have to go through this.”
Poole asked Tracy Smith if she would want the person who abused her daughter to “just walk out of the courtroom today.”
“Well, no,” Tracy Smith said, adding that she did not have the chance at justice and that her daughter grappled with the experience alone.
Scott Smith said he did not have a full picture of the allegations against his daughter prior to the hearing, but that he would allow his daughter to live with him all of his life “if that’s what it takes” for her to receive a probation-based sentence.
The Hamels each made a plea for redemption.
‘Most despicable act of depravity’
In closing arguments, Ely said his client deserved credit for taking responsibility for her actions and shows remorse.
Poole countered that she was putting on an act to avoid the stiff sentence she was facing — 260 years if given the maximum number of years consecutively.
Before issuing his sentence, Rose said the acts Smith committed caused “a scar that will go on for generations” and impact the victims’ future spouses and children.
“You knew what you were doing. You knew how horrible it was, and yet you did it …” he said. “To prey on a child for your own sexual pleasure, to me, is the most despicable act of depravity, and ma’am, I understand redemption. I believe in redemption, but the state is right — there’s also an issue of taking responsibility for your acts.”