An Ohio man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on March 9 after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 2-year-old girl. Despite his sentence, he maintained his innocence, telling the court that, among other reasons, he couldn't have raped her because the little girl had chlamydia and he didn't.
Devante M. Gibbs, 24, was convicted on Feb. 10 of two counts of kidnapping, two counts of child endangerment, and one count each of rape and felonious assault. The charges were filed in September 2013 after Gibbs sexually assaulted a 2-year-old girl and placed her in scalding bath water to destroy the evidence.
Gibbs managed to flee the Lorain County Justice Center while the jury was deliberating. On Feb. 18 he was apprehended by the U.S. Marshals Service, which found him at a family member's home in Long Beach, California, according to The Morning Journal. He was extradited back to Ohio on March 3.
At his sentencing hearing, Gibbs read a statement to the court in which he denied having committed the crimes and said he had hired a private investigator to help clear his name.
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"I thought the truth, the facts and justice would prevail," Gibbs said. "I risked life because I knew if the facts got brought up, you could see that I didn’t rape her."
He added that he has committed himself to identifying the real perpetrator.
"I realize I will be receiving a life sentence, but I will not stop trying to find the monster that did this," he said, according to The Chronicle. "Despite what the jury verdict was I would never, ever even think of raping someone, let alone a baby."
During the trial, Gibbs said he did not assault the victim but accepted responsibility for the burns she sustained to her lower body. He said he drew a bath for himself but went outside to smoke because the water was too hot. When he reentered the house he said the girl had climbed into the tub of her own accord. Gibbs also said that the fact that the little girl was found to have chlamydia and he doesn't have it is proof that he didn't rape her.
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She had to be hospitalized for a month as a result of the burns, multiple internal injuries and a near-fatal infection. Assistant County Prosecutor Stephanie Malanowski described her as having been "at death's door."
Before sentencing, Malanowski read a statement from the victim's mother, who lives in another state and did not attend the hearing.
"Throughout this process, [Gibbs] has continued to demonstrate his demeanor as a disgusting human being and shows no remorse for what he has done to her," the statement said.
The victim's mother went on to write that her daughter lives in fear. She is afraid of bathing and is embarrassed by the scars from the burns and the life-saving operations she underwent at the hospital.
"One day I’ll have to sit her down and explain to her why the scars exist," Malanowski read. "It is my worst nightmare as her mother to look her in the eyes when she is older and explain to her how someone can be so sinister and violate her sweet innocence at the age of 2."
Malanowsky cited the victim's age and the physical harm caused by the crimes as reasons why Gibbs deserved the maximum punishment allowed by law.
Gibbs' defense attorney, Brian Darling, told Judge Christopher Rothgery that he expects his client to appeal the sentence.