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Man sentenced for raping 9-year-old

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By John Barnhart

A Blue Ridge man will spend the rest of this century in prison for the forcible rape of a 9-year-old girl.

    According to Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Krantz, Christopher Michael Shepperd, 36, of Blue Ridge entered a non-contest plea in the spring to two charges of the forcible rape of the 9-year-old girl. Krantz said that there was no plea agreement. He had forensic evidence and the victim’s testimony.

    “The girl was very adamant that he had done it,” Krantz said.

    According to Krantz, the sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence of between three and 14 years. He asked Judge James Updike to depart from the guidelines and impose a higher sentence, but did not ask for a specific length.

    “The guidelines, in this case, are insufficient,” Krantz argued. “There are some people that forfeit their right to reenter civilized society.”

    When imposing sentence, Judge James Updike stated to Shepperd: “The facts in this case are as aggravated as any I’ve seen in 31 years working in this courthouse. It is my intention that you never have a chance to hurt a child again.”

    Judge Updike sentenced Shepperd to 50 years in prison on each charge. The sentences are consecutive, giving Shepperd 100 years in prison.

    Shepperd originally faced three charges but agreed to waive a preliminary hearing if the commonwealth agreed to drop one charge.

    A no contest plea is a form of guilty plea. The accused is stating that he is not going to contest the commonwealth’s evidence.

    When it came time for Shepperd’s sentencing last week, Krantz put Caroline Butt on the stand. Butt is a forensic nurse at Bedford Memorial Hospital. She testified that the evidence she saw on the girl was consistent with forcible rape. She also testified that she saw signs consistent with chronic abuse. The girl had stated that she had been sexually abused since she was 4 and described, in detail, the nature of the abuse.

    Krantz said that he was ready for a full, contested sentencing hearing. Expert witnesses included a licensed professional counselor who was ready to testify that the child’s psychological behavior was consistent with that a of a child who had been sexually abused.

    Kelly Bowyer, Shepperd’s defense attorney, put Shepperd’s sister-in-law on the stand. She described Shepperd as a caring, loving father. Christopher Shepperd’s older brother, Larry, was also called to the stand. He described his brother as a great father.

    Bowyer was arguing for a sentence at the low end of the sentencing guidelines for Shepperd. Bowyer said that Shepperd had become aware that somebody had molested the child. She said that he could have pushed the case and made the child get on the witness stand.

    “This child has had a difficult life,” Bowyer said.

    Bowyer also said that, when the commonwealth agreed not to prosecute one of the three charges, that lowered the length of  recommended sentence in the sentencing guidelines. He relied on that change when he pleaded no contest.

    “Whatever the defendant counted on, he shouldn’t have,” replied Krantz, noting that there had been no plea agreement.

    “The defendant has not done this victim any favors,” he added.

    Krantz said that Shepperd has never taken responsibility for his actions and denies that he ever did it.