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Father sentenced to 75 years for sexually abusing 12-year-old daughter

JEFFERSON, Iowa -- An Iowa judge has sentenced James Exline to 75 years in prison for sexually abusing his daughter, who was killed in a house fire allegedly set by her step brother.

District Court Judge James Drew also denied the motion for a new trial for James Exline, according to WHO.

"The judge stood by all of his initial rulings that Mr. Exline had a fair trial, that the evidence that was admitted was all permissible, but this also allows the defendant to preserve error and procedurally allows him to make an additional appeal," Assistant County Attorney Thomas Laehn said.

There were two previous mistrials in the case and the third trial resulted in his conviction.

Drew said he finds it extremely troubling that someone would do this to their own daughter and he knows this was not an isolated incident.

"I considered the fact that before you started to commit these crimes, you had reason to believe that Paige was being abused by another family member and when you took steps to address that matter, then you began to commit these crimes," Drew said.

The judge said Exline will serve 50 years for count one of second-degree sexual abuse and 25 years for count two of third-degree sexual abuse. These sentences are to be served consecutively.

"I guess there’s no sense in trying to figure out or rationalize these types of acts, because that’s why they call them irrational. I don’t know what else to say except that I consider you to be extremely dangerous. I consider these crimes to be as serious as any other crime that could possibly be committed and given all of that, I absolutely agree with the state that consecutive sentences are appropriate," Drew said.

Exline was also ordered to pay a fine of $1,000.

The prosecution said Exline must serve 85 percent of both sentences before he is ever considered for parole.

"I believe the judge’s sentence was fair and it is likely that Mr. Exline will be spending the rest of his life in prison," Laehn said.

Paige Exline was 12-years-old when she and 16-year-old cousin Shakiah Cockerham were killed in a house fire in Guthrie County in May of 2017. Investigators say the fire was intentionally set by Patrick Thompson, James Exline’s stepson. He is charged with arson and murder in the case and his trial is scheduled for September 17th.

Because Paige died in the fire, prosecutors said the result of James Exline's case depended on their ability to give Paige a voice.

"We had let other individuals, witnesses, speak for her, to allow the state to speak for her, to give her a voice. That the story she told so many people before her death would not be lost or silenced but would be heard by the jury, by the judge, by members of this community," Laehn said.

Noah Exline, Paige’s brother, is also charged with sexually abusing her. His trial is scheduled for October 30th.