GREENFIELD — She knows it’s not her fault, she told a judge. Even in the darkest moments, when she feels her saddest and her most afraid, she tries to remember she didn’t cause these things; Robert Celio did.
Seated at a table in Hancock Circuit Court on Thursday, a young victim spoke about the sexual abuse she said she suffered at Celio’s hands. Her voice shook slightly as she asked the judge to send the 34-year-old Greenfield man away for as long as possible.
And the judge complied, ordering that Celio serve 50 years in prison — the maximum sentence for the child molestation and intimidation charges he faced.
Celio was found guilty of five felony charges at the end of a two-day trial in July.
The victim testified Celio forced her to have sex with him repeatedly through the years — starting when she was 6 years old, according to court records.
The girl waited to come forward about the abuse until after Celio was arrested and booked into the Hancock County Jail on unrelated charges — a time when she finally felt safe, she said.
Thursday, she spoke about the emotional trauma she’s suffered because of Celio’s abuse. She’s sad and angry, she told the court. She has nightmares, and she seeks counseling in the hope she can one day have the normal life most girls live, she said.
“I feel unloveable,” she said. “Why would someone love a broken child like me?
“I just hope I can change another girl’s life by telling my story,” she added.
Prosecutors relied heavily on the girl’s testimony during trial. The victim told jurors of four times when Celio assaulted her, barricading himself in a room with her and once holding a gun to her head and threatening to shoot her if she ever told anyone what had happened.
Celio repeatedly denied the allegations. He spoke briefly Thursday, repeating through tears that he didn’t harm the girl as she said.
Three armed jail officers flanked Celio as Judge Richard Culver announced his sentence, ready in case the defendant reacted with an outburst of anger as he did when he last appeared in court; at the end of his trial, Celio jumped up from his seat in the courtroom, shouting in fury and ignoring orders from the judge and his attorney to remain seated.
During the investigation, the victim told police she’d also been harmed by friends of Celio’s and that the man had talked “about selling her for sex,” court documents state. Another man, Joshua Lloyd, 44, was charged and arrested amid these allegations. His case is pending, records show.
During Celio’s trial, Jeff McClarnon, the man’s defense attorney, suggested the girl’s story was fabricated, that her allegations were just a story she was coached to tell.
On Thursday, he told the judge he believed the charges his client faced were harsh, especially when there might be others guilty of similar crimes against the girl. He asked the judge to sentence Celio to only 30 years.
“I don’t want to diminish what happened in this case, but I have to fight for fairness,” McClarnon said.
But prosecutors called the girl brave for coming forward and reporting what happened.
“There is nothing I can say that will take away the pain (she) feels,” Chief Deputy Prosecutor Marie Castetter said. “She’ll live with these scars for the rest of her life.”
But with a lengthy sentence, Castetter said, the girl might at least feel safe long enough to heal.
The judge also granted Castetter’s request to bar Celio from ever contacting the girl again.