DeRidder man's sentence upheld in Vernon case

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal says 35 years is not too long in prison for a DeRidder man who pleaded guilty to attempted rape of a seven-year-old girl in Vernon Parish.

30th Judicial District Judge Vernon Clark sentenced Bobby H. McMurtury, Jr. after McMurtury pleaded guilty in a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office.

McMurtury was indicted in July 2016 on a first-degree rape charge and on a charge of indecent behavior with a juvenile. He was 34 at the time of the crimes.

 In January of this year, McMurtury pleaded guilty to attempted rape and the indecent behavior charge was dismissed. In March, he was sentenced to 35 years without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. The sentencing range provided by law is 10-50 years.

In his appeal, McMurtury claimed the sentence is excessive for an offender with mental health and drug dependency problems. He asserted his age and his health and abuse issues were reason for a lesser sentence. The appellate court said otherwise.

The 3rd Circuit noted the wide discretion available to the trial court in imposition of sentence within the statutory limits, and said it found nothing “grossly disproportionate” to the severity of the crime “as to shock our sense of justice.”

The court noted a sentence within the statutory sentencing range may still be constitutionally excessive “if it shocks the sense of justice or makes no meaningful contribution to acceptable penal goals.” It did not find that the case in Judge Clark’s sentencing.

The appellate court noted that the victim’s mother and a grandmother testified extensively at a pre-sentencing hearing as to the emotional harm inflicted upon the minor by McMurtury.

 “Both testified that the child is not the same little girl that she was prior to these incidents. She is no longer trusting of others and often was up crying in the middle of the night,” they wrote in their opinion.

At that hearing, McMurtury, a divorced father of three, testified about his mental health issues (diagnosed schizophrenic) and drug abuse (in particular meth). He has several misdemeanor convictions as one as one felony conviction in Beauregard Parish.

Prior to issuing his sentence in March, Judge Clark noted McMurtury was in a position of trust, acting as a sitter of the little girl when he acted without provocation by anyone. 

“This child has been emotionally traumatized. She has withdrawn from, in effect, this world and society, and particularly her school environment into a small circle of people that she feels she can trust…

“This trauma, quite frankly will be damage that will last through the entirety of her life and one only hopes that the counseling and the treatment she gets will help her come to grips with this as much as possible and learn to live within the society, to establish relationships with others that would allow her to have what we would hope would be classified as a normal life at some point and time.”

“The children, and the younger they are, are the most helpless members of our society, who can’t protect themselves and we need to protect them. We need to protect them from predators and that’s where I classify you, as a predator. 

“Whether you were on drugs or not, you’re a predator, and, certainly, there’s an extremely high likelihood that, if you were left out in society, there would be another victim or victims in regards to this who are the least protected,” Clark said.