by: Justin Faulconer
A former student teacher at a Lynchburg elementary school will serve seven years for two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a minor in Campbell County.
Alexander Aldrich, 23, pleaded guilty to the charges in June. The former Liberty University student faced child pornography possession charges in Lynchburg and earlier this year was sentenced to serve eight years.
Campbell County Judge John Cook on Wednesday sentenced Aldrich to 20 years on each count and suspended all but seven years.
The sheriff’s office said the sexual assaults took place in January 2012 with a child under the age of 13. Aldrich, a New Hampshire man in Lynchburg attending Liberty University, was a student teacher at R.S. Payne Elementary School for just more than a month in late 2012 prior to his arrest; the assaults did not involve the school.
The child’s father testified Wednesday the family hired Aldrich to help out with his special-needs son, who has autism, through a Liberty University ad. The family took Aldrich into the home as a friend, gave him gifts and shared dinners, the father said.
“He betrayed us,” he said of Aldrich. “We trusted him…we reached out to Alex for help. He further delayed our child.”
He testified he believes Aldrich had a plan to target families with special needs. Aldrich was with the family for about two years, the father said.
Aldrich’s parents, who live in New Hampshire, testified their son always had been a good child who never was in trouble. They described him as an “overachiever, very gentle, very responsible” and active in his church, academics and athletics and expressed their remorse for the child’s family.
Aldrich said in court the child’s family embraced him and took him into their home. Through tears, he said he wished he could take back his mistake and hopes the family can move forward and find peace.
“I don’t know how to apologize other than to say I’m sorry,” Aldrich said. Defense attorney Joseph Sanzone said Aldrich had informed investigators of his actions against the child when there was no evidence that incriminated him. Aldrich said he did not regret telling the truth about what happened.
“I needed to speak for this child who couldn’t speak for himself,” Aldrich said. Sanzone mentioned his coming forth in arguing for a lenient sentence and said Aldrich plans to seek out treatment in the future.
“He did confess to something that otherwise would have been unknown,” he said. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Beth Doucette said Aldrich planned a career that placed him alone with children when he fully knew he had “inclinations.”
“We’re here as a result of his actions,” she said. Before ruling, Cook spoke of the “uncalculated damage” to the special-needs child, who could not protect himself.
“It’s a very sad case,” he said.
This article was written by Justin Faulconer and originally published on newsadvance