CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) — A Caroline County reverend was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison, with all but six suspended, for sexually assaulting a nine-year-old female relative in the family home last year. The girl kept the secret for more than a year before telling her mother.
The Rev. Darrell Lee Sheets, 64, became the third member of a Spotsylvania church to be listed on the state’s sex offender registry. Their crimes are not related, but all three men associated with each other, said Caroline County prosecutor Diane Abato.
“It’s a concern that that they sort of found each other,” Abato said. She added that Sheets had ”bragged” he had driven one of the other offenders to the magistrate’s office to turn himself in.
Sheets, who lived in Woodford, had pled guilty to aggravated sexual battery and indecent liberties with a child in July. His sentencing was Wednesday in Caroline County Circuit Court.
The girl had kept the attack a secret for more than a year, then told her mother. Her mother confronted the man, who later turned himself in and confessed to fondling the girl and placing her hands on him, Abato said.
Tragically, she added, the same girl was victimized by a friend of a relative. On Monday, Phillip Wayne Williams of Fredericksburg was given a one-year suspended sentence in Spotsylvania County Circuit Court for misdemeanor sexual battery of the girl.
The girl’s grandfather said she is recovering and has a good support system. “This child suffered for 16 to 18 months, keeping this dirty, nasty, horrible little secret,” he told CBS 6. “And if your article can, in any way shape or form, encourage another child or family to to step into the light of justice, that is redemptive value to me.”
Sheets was a member of Christian Outreach Full Gospel Church. He had no official duties. Previously, he had pastored a church not far away.
In April, 61-year-old Edward Zottoli was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy he was mentoring at that same church. Another member, 75-year-old Gary Ehle was convicted of aggravated sexual battery in 2001.
The pastor of the church, Norman Gallimore, said he had already talked to his congregation about the situation, which he also had to do just months earlier for recent case involving Zotolli. Gallimore said Sheets was just a member of the church and had no official duties.
Abato said Sheets acknowledged what he had done. “He talked about what happened. ‘I’m sorry for what happened,’” she said. “As if it were a natural disaster or a fire or something. He didn’t say, ‘I’m sorry for what I did.’”
She was hoping Sheets would have to serve at least twice as much time.
“I want people to believe kids,” she said. “A lot of times people don’t want to believe this really happens in their neighborhoods. You know, maybe it happens on TV, it happens somewhere else. But they don’t want to believe it happens in their home. People need to believe it. They need to take action.”