DANVILLE — A Boyle County woman was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison on charges that she sexually and physically abused three girls she adopted after serving as their foster parent.
Patricia Ann Harris, 55, pleaded guilty in September to second-degree sodomy, first-degree sexual abuse and three counts of first-degree criminal abuse.
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During Tuesday's sentencing, defense attorney Melissa Bellew said this was the first felony conviction for Harris, and she sought probation for Harris. And in a handwritten letter filed with the court record on Nov. 13, Harris asked for probation from Boyle Circuit Judge Darren Peckler.
"I understand my charges and accept them" Harris wrote to the judge. "I regret those things that I did that were wrong and not a day goes by that I don't pray for forgiveness."
But Peckler decided against probation, saying in court, "I'm not in the forgiveness business. I can't excuse what happened here. ... I can't demean this offense by granting probation."
Harris adopted the girls, ages 5, 6, and 8, in April 2006.
The girls were taken from her custody on June 28. They have since been placed in foster care, and Commonwealth's Attorney Richard Bottoms said they might have been adopted again.
Peckler called the abuse inflicted upon the girls "pretty heinous."
For example, documents filed in the court record say Harris threw one girl into a tub, causing bruises to her arms and legs. The girls told investigators Harris bit them on their lips, pushed or threw them down steps, hit them in the head and face, and stepped on their throats and chest while they were on the floor.
The report also said Harris would choke the girls with her hands, and "push them up against the wall while holding them by their necks." The girls also described how they were forced to squat for hours with their hands on their heads.
In another instance, the report said, Harris "took a stick from an Easter basket and shoved food down (the 6-year-old's) throat because she would not eat" her bologna sandwich.
The report also said Harris "bent back (the 5-year-old's) fingers and caused them to break." Harris told the girls "to say they fell off their bikes, the swing or fell" in such instances, according to the report.
The report also said Harris would have the girls "stick out their tongues and she would bite their tongues, making holes in them and causing their tongues to bleed."
The 5-year-old said she was sexually abused by Harris, whom the girls called "Momma Ann."
Harris denied doing anything to the children other than spanking them. She also denied any sexual abuse.
A pre-sentencing report noted that female sex offenders are uncommon, comprising only 2 to 5 percent of all sex offenders nationwide. Because so few women are convicted of sex offenses, research is limited on whether they commit repeat offenses.
One study in Kentucky reviewed the files of 97 female sex offenders who were incarcerated between 1985 and 2000. According to court records, none of those 97 had been arrested on a new sex offense by the end of 2000.
As part of her plea agreement, Harris will be required to register as a sex offender.