HANCOCK COUNTY — Deputy prosecutor Catherine Wilson didn’t smile, but there was a look of relief on her face when she heard the details of the sentence being handed down to Hayden J. Nix.
Nix got 16 years for sexually assaulting a teenage girl, the fourth time a judge has sentenced him in the past year for a series of felonies involving attacks on girls. In the latest case, he was convicted of rape in October, and he already had accumulated sentences totaling more than 20 years from the previous three cases.
All of the attacks occurred within a 32-day span in the fall of 2017.
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Judge Terry Snow, presiding Tuesday, Feb. 4, in Hancock County Superior Court 1, told Nix his latest sentence would run consecutively to the years he’s already required to serve. In all, Nix has been sentenced to 35½ years, with 5½ years suspended.
Nix, 21, likely will be in his 40s when he’s released. He will also have to register as a violent sexual predator for life. Nix also will be required to take part in counseling and treatment while incarcerated.
“I’m thrilled for the four girls who have been affected by him and proud how they’ve all come together to support each other,” Wilson said of the victims in the four cases. “They can now close this chapter and get on with their lives.”
The convictions against Nix were a team effort, Wilson said, thanking deputy prosecutor Kevin Kelly for his work on the cases. Prosecutor Brent Eaton praised his staff and police for tackling the sex crimes cases. He noted that they are difficult to prosecute.
“This took a lot of hard work and dedication on the part of Ms. Wilson, our staff and law enforcement,” Eaton said. “She’s done some incredible work with the victims in these cases.”
The sentencing hearing lasted nearly three hours, and prosecutors and Nix’s defense lawyer called several witnesses.
The victim was one of them.
The girl, who is now 16, told the court Nix had taken her joy and the light out of her eyes when he raped her on the night of Oct. 14, 2017. But she left him with a parting comment.
“Hayden, I really want you to live well in prison; your life in prison, it will feel like paradise when you go to hell,” the victim said.
The girl’s father also had harsh words for Nix, telling him and the court a 16-year sentence was not enough time for the crime committed against his daughter.
“Any man who rapes children should be put to death,” the girl’s father said.
Nix’s defense, led by Denise Turner, had asked the judge for a nine-year sentence with five years executed and four suspended, saying factors in his upbringing contributed to his behavior.
Dressed in orange jail clothing, Nix sat at the defense table wiping away tears as he listened to Clyde Bush, his grandfather, tell the court that everything about his grandson is good.
Bush was one of several witnesses who spoke on Nix’s behalf. He told the court Nix and his family have had a difficult time defending their loved one over the past 2½ years.
“I’ll be here to defend Hayden until the day I die,” Bush said.
The defense also called Micki Rushton, a sentencing advocate specialist, who testified about a 23-page report she’d compiled on Nix.
Rushton testified Nix had been introduced to pornography at a young age and that he had suffered trauma through his parents’ divorce. Those factors, coupled with never getting treatment, had caused Nix to become a sex addict.
Prior to the sentencing, Nix spoke briefly to Snow.
“I’m sorry both sides are going through this,” Nix said. “Moving forward hopefully everyone can have a life.”
Snow acknowledged issues with Nix’s upbringing but noted his history of violating probation and his record played a part in the sentencing decision.
Nix’s family said they will appeal all convictions against Nix and have already started the process.
Snow also vacated a Level 5 felony charge of sexual misconduct with a minor from the most recent case in order to avoid double jeopardy against Nix.
Snow was asked to handle the sentencing as a temporary judge because Judge Marie Castetter had to recuse herself due to the fact she was the county’s chief deputy prosecutor when all of the charges were brought against Nix.