FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 16CR094820.
MICHAEL J. DUFF, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
P. WILL, Prosecuting Attorney, and BRIAN P. MURPHY, Assistant
Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
Jennifer Hensal, Judge.
Walter James appeals his convictions from the Lorain County
Court of Common Pleas. This Court affirms.
The victim in this case is Mr. James's stepdaughter who,
at the time of trial, was 28 years old. Mr. James married the
victim's mother ("S.H.") when the victim was
four years old. S.H. had a son from a previous relationship,
and had a daughter with Mr. James after they married. The
family of five moved into a ranch-style home when the victim
was 7 years old. According to the victim, Mr. James started
sexually abusing her around that time. The abuse started with
Mr. James kissing her and touching her vagina as he put her
to bed at night. When she was 10 years old, the victim
moved from her first-floor bedroom to a basement bedroom.
Once she moved to the basement, Mr. James began inserting his
fingers into her vagina "most nights[.]" This
progressed to the victim performing oral sex on Mr. James by
the time she was 12 or 13 years old, and to having vaginal
intercourse with him when she was around 13 years old.
In 2003, the victim confided in one of her youth-group
friends about the abuse. That friend told the pastor's
wife, who told the pastor, who then contacted Children's
Services. Children's Services removed Mr. James from the
family home while they conducted an investigation. Fearing
that her family would be split up, the victim recanted and
the investigation ended without charges being filed. Mr.
James then returned to the family home.
Shortly after his return, S.H. had a mental breakdown, which
lasted about three years. During that time, S.H. was heavily
medicated and spent most of her time in her bedroom while Mr.
James looked after the three children. Within a few months
after his return, Mr. James began having sex with the victim
multiple times a week. The abuse continued into adulthood,
with the victim explaining that she continued to have sex
with Mr. James even after she moved out of the family home.
She explained that sex eventually became the
"price" she had to pay for him doing things for
her, including work on her home or car.
The abuse stopped in 2014, and the victim stopped
communicating with Mr. James in 2015. S.H. took notice and
reached out to her daughter. The victim met with S.H. for
lunch and disclosed the abuse. S.H. took several days to
process the information, and then confronted Mr. James.
According to S.H., Mr. James acknowledged the truth of the
allegations and left the family home. S.H. initially sought a
dissolution of the marriage, but eventually filed for
The victim testified that she initially did not report the
abuse to the police because she had hoped that Mr. James
would continue to provide for her mother and other siblings,
which she felt Mr. James owed to her given the years of
abuse. When he stopped supporting them, she reported the
abuse to the police.
A grand jury indicted Mr. James on one count of rape in
violation of Revised Code Section 2907.02(A)(1)(b), one count
rape in violation of Section 2907.02(A)(2), four counts of
sexual battery in violation of Section 2907.03(A)(5), and one
count of unlawful sexual contact with a minor in violation of
Section 2907.04(A). Mr. James pleaded not guilty and the
matter proceeded to a jury trial.
At trial, the State presented testimony from the victim and
S.H. Mr. James did not testify, nor did he present any
evidence aside from three letters that the victim wrote to
him contemporaneous with the alleged abuse. The jury
ultimately returned a verdict of guilty on all counts, and
the trial court sentenced Mr. James to a total of 24 years of
incarceration. He now appeals, ...