A Waxahachie, Texas, man who sexually abused five children at his wife’s day care was sentenced to prison on Thursday.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Dennis Ray Avery, 58, victimized the five children—all younger than 6—at his wife’s home-based day care over a two-year period. After pleading guilty to five counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, a jury sentenced Avery to five consecutive life sentences.
Avery has been jailed since May 2016 on bonds totaling $400,000. In June, he rejected a plea agreement that would imprison him for 40 years, according to the Waxahachie Daily Light.
The defense also called Avery’s pastor of four years to the stand. The pastor, who has known Avery for 14 years, portrayed him as a docile, churchgoing man and attributed a sudden change in behavior to a head injury he sustained in a car accident.
Avery testified that he was able to suppress his feelings about young girls until October 2015, when he suffered the head injury. He also claimed he was too embarrassed to seek help for his proclivities, the local paper reports.
“After the accident, I had too much time on my hands. I was struggling with my faith and turned my back on God. I was trying hard to be all of the things that I was supposed to be. I started to drifting away and stopped teaching Sunday school,” Avery explained.
“Maybe in prison I can get some help and someone can explain it [my actions].”
Defense attorney Kent McGuire ultimately pushed for a 25-year sentence, arguing that his client would be released at 83 and “would be unlikely to re-offend.
“I am asking for 25 years. It is not likely he would live that long. He would be subjected to harm from other prisoners,” he stated.
However, prosecutors presented his graphic internet search history from April 2015, suggesting that his proclivities predated the auto accident. They also argued that Avery poses a societal risk regardless of his age.
“The truth is that it does not matter how kind he is or how many times he went to church. He stole the innocence of six little girls. We are asking for five life sentences,” Ellis County Assistant District Attorney Nicole Crain said during closing arguments.
“What you have heard is the punishment phase. You can consider every offense that he has perpetrated…These six girls are not the only victims but so are the parents. Give them a voice.”
In addition to the five life sentences, the Waxahachie man was hit with five $10,000 fines.
[Featured Image: Ellis County District Attorney’s Office]