GREENFIELD – Now, she’ll start healing.
A girl — the same girl who took to the witness stand in Hancock Circuit Court late last year to tell a jury the horrors of being repeatedly raped and assault by a man she trusted — told a judge Thursday that she is ready to move forward, away from the memories and despair that still tie her to her abuser, Steven Grogan.
She wanted Grogan to be locked away for long as possible, she told the judge. Because she’d hate to know that she was still stuck in a prison of emotions and trauma while Grogan walked free.
After hearing her words, the judge ordered Thursday that Grogan to serve 27 years in an Indiana Department of Correction prison.
Story continues below gallery
Grogan, 37, of Shirley, was found guilty of rape and battery at the conclusion of a three-day trial in December.
Grogan’s is the first rape case to go before a Hancock County jury in nearly a decade, officials said.
The 12 Hancock County residents who served as jurors spent nearly six hours deliberating before convicting Grogan of the five assault-related charges he faced, including three Level 3 felony counts of rape.
Grogan’s accuser testified the abuse went on daily for nearly a year. She told police she’d often lie motionless in her bed while Grogan assaulted her, praying silently for it to be over, according to court documents.
She told the jury she’d never planned on telling anyone about the assaults because saying it aloud would mean admitting it had actually happened. She eventually confided in a therapist, who contacted police.
She’d faced a lot hurdles since coming forward in early 2017 but feels like she is making a lot of progress to get back to a normal life, the victim told the judge during Thursday’s hearing. She graduated from high school with honors, a 4.6 grade-point average and the title of 21st-Century Scholar, testimony at trial revealed. She was well-behaved in school and heavily involved in activities and is now pursuing a college degree.
She wants to continue that progress, she told the judge. Knowing Grogan is locked away, where he can’t hurt her again, will only help.
“I’m ready to be free from this burden,” she said. “He took so much away from me, and I don’t want him to take anything else.”
Members of girl’s family spoke Thursday, pledging to help her forge that path of success she’s be on since reporting the rape.
“All you did was make her stronger,” the girl’s mother said to Grogan. “One day, she’ll be able to hold her head up and cry for the person she’s become and not for what you’ve taken from her.
“She will be able to take your power and your control and turn it into her power.”
Grogan took the witness stand briefly during Thursday’s hearing, talking about his wife, his young son and how difficult it’s been to spend the last year away from them.
Being locked in the Hancock County Jail for so long has been one of the must trying times of his life, Grogan told the judge.
He’d seen traumas and death while working as an emergency room nurse, he’d spent months away from his family while serving overseas in the Navy. But nothing compared to being locked away, Grogan said.
“I feel like my life is gone,” Grogan said.
At one point, he called out the victim’s name and said that he was sorry. Hearing it from the gallery, his 16-year-old accuser buried her face in her hands and sobbed.
But it wasn’t clear what Grogan was apologizing for, the judge later pointed out, because both he and his defense attorney maintain Grogan is innocent.
Johnson County attorney Jeffery Eggers returned to Hancock County on Thursday to sentence Grogan, despite having been relieved of his duties as the interim Hancock Circuit Court judge.
The Franklin resident was appointed to the bench in October after the retirement of Judge Richard Culver. He served for about three months until the governor named Judge Scott Sirk to the Circuit Court bench for the remainder of Culver’s term.
Eggers heard the testimony presented in Grogan’s trial in December, and he told the defendant Thursday that he chooses sentences that will act as punishment, rehabilitation and a deterrent all at once.
But it’s hard to rehabilitate someone who can’t admit they’ve done something wrong, Eggers said to Grogan. And because Grogan refuses to accept any blame in the case, he’s not a good candidate for what would be seen as a rehabilitation-centered sentence of short-term incarceration followed by probation, Eggers said.
Prosecutors asked the judge for an even stricter sentence than the one he delivered.
Calling Grogan’s “the most heinous of heinous offenses,” Deputy Prosecutor Cathy Wilson asked Eggers to send the man to prison for nearly 50 years.
At the same time, Grogan’s defense attorney, Allen Lidy of Mooresville, asked the judge to show leniency, asking that his client be sentenced to no more than 12 years and that the time be divided between prison and probation.
While handing down the sentence, Eggers told the courtroom he agreed more with the state’s point of view. He ordered that Grogan serve nine years for each of the Level 3 felony counts of rape that were filed against him.
Nine years is the recommended sentence for Level 3 felony counts, though judges can choose to sentence defendants to a maximum of 16 years.
Upon his release from prison, Grogan will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.