Former Ketchikan High School teacher and local pastor Doug Edwards was sentenced Thursday to serve six years in jail for sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl who was a student and member of his congregation.
Doug Edwards was charged last spring with six counts of sexual abuse of a minor for groping the 14-year-old girl’s chest at the high school, at his home and at the church where he was a pastor. He pleaded guilty in early February to one consolidated charge of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor through a plea agreement.
During the sentencing hearing, Superior Court Judge William Carey accepted the plea agreement, and sentenced Edwards to 18 years with 12 years suspended. Edwards will be eligible for good time, which could cut his time in jail by up to a third.
Once released, Edwards will face 10 years probation, and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
The victim and her family had an opportunity to speak during the sentencing hearing. The victim participated by phone and declined to comment. But her mother and grandmother both spoke.
Her mother read from her daughter’s written statement. In it, the victim said she doubted her own ability to understand what’s normal, and who was at fault.
“He has kids, a wife, a reputation. Why would he abuse a student? Why would he pick me? He has nothing to gain from this and everything to lose,” her mother read. “What about his family? They’d be devastated, they’d be crushed. I don’t want to be a person who destroys relationships. Or maybe it was just a misunderstanding – something I’m reading far too much into. At this point, I now realize all the faults of my coping mechanisms and how untrue they were.”
The victim’s mother later addressed Edwards directly.
“The trust that you broke is perhaps the most sickening thing in all of this,” she said. “We trusted you with our most valuable possessions – our children. You are a shepherd, supposedly watching out for your flock. But instead you are the wolf, devouring many.”
The victim’s grandmother said her granddaughter is a hero for speaking out about Edwards.
“She showed Christ-like love when she thought of his family before she thought of reporting him,” she said. “He claimed to be a Christian, which meant he should have been Christ-like, and yet he didn’t even think of his own family above himself.”
The family does not agree with the terms of the plea agreement, and asked the judge to consider a longer sentence.
Edwards also spoke, and said he’s deeply sorry for the pain and distress his actions caused the victim and her family, as well as his own family, his church, the school district and the community.
“To have been in such a prominent position and to have been so trusted makes my crime that much greater. There is no justification for my sin,” Edwards said. “Anything called repentance requires tangible evidence to prove that it’s real. I am committed to live out the rest of my life showing the change in my heart and the regret for my actions.”
Judge Carey agreed with the victim’s grandmother that her granddaughter is a hero for coming forward. Carey called Edwards’ actions appalling, and said they will have long-term effects, especially on the victim and her family.
“And my heart goes out to them for that,” Carey said. “She is never going to be the same, Mr. Edwards. This is going to stay with her (for) her entire life. This is going to stay with her family and those who are closest to her.”
Carey added that there have been collateral effects throughout the community.
However, Carey said the plea agreement is reasonable for this case. Edwards, who is 60 years old, has no prior criminal offenses. Carey said 10 years of probation and 12 years suspended jail time should provide a significant incentive for Edwards to behave once released.
Carey did note that sexual offenders often are driven by strong urges, and Edwards will have some work to do toward rehabilitation. Part of his probation requirement is to participate in sex-offender treatment programs.
Once released, Edwards’ contact with anyone under 16 will be strictly limited.