Stearnes sentenced for sexual assault

Published 11:26 am Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Richard Alan Stearnes

Richard Alan Stearnes, a 39-year-old Lunenburg man, was sentenced recently in Lunenburg Circuit Court to an active term of seven years in prison on a felony conviction of Malicious Bodily Injury as a result of an assault toward his girlfriend. He was originally charged with Rape and Object Sexual Penetration, but a plea agreement was reached in which the Penetration charge was amended to the Class 3 felony of Malicious Bodily Injury.

According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Clement in a news release, the incident occurred on June 14, 2018 about 1 a.m. in the home of the two individuals who had been living together for about one-and-a-half years. There were two children sleeping in the house, one child of each person, when the incident occurred.

The victim told police and testified in the preliminary hearing that the two of them had been arguing for a few hours over the fact that she was leaving him and moving out later in the week, according to the release.

She said that Stearnes grabbed her and threw onto the bed, then held her down. According to the release she said she screamed and cursed him to get off of her… .

Externally, the victim suffered bruises … and abrasions to her hip about the size of a large hand, according to the release.

She said that the next morning the defendant apologized, but she packed her bags and left and went to her mother’s home in Chesterfield, the release cited. She told her mother what happened, and her mother called the Lunenburg Sheriff’s Office.

Investigator Gail Berkley, according to the release, talked with the victim and had her go to a hospital where DNA evidence was recovered, sent to the state lab, and returned with a positive conclusion of being the defendant.

At Berkley’s request, the victim recorded a conversation with Stearnes when he called her. He repeatedly stated that he knew she was recording the conversation, but continued to talk for about a half-hour, begging her at times not to go to the police, that they could work it out. When the victim asked why he was asking her to not go to the police when he was saying he had not done anything, he would say, “Hello, there you go. Recording, recording.” He begged her to meet with him face to face, which she refused, stating that “There is no way I’m meeting you after what you did to me.”

Stearnes denied assaulting the victim in any fashion, and accused her of making up the story to get money out of him. He referred to a text that she had sent him a few hours before her mother called law enforcement, inquiring about her car insurance which he was supposed to have paid earlier, and accusing him of stealing her EBT card from her pocketbook.

About a week before the incident, the release cited that Stearnes told a Deputy Sheriff that his girlfriend was going to blackmail him into paying all of her bills. The deputy told him to see a lawyer. Four days after the incident, Stearnes told the deputy that she was accusing him of rape.

He said the two of them had rough sex, but not rape, that it was consensual … . He said she was telling him she was going (to) the cops if he didn’t pay her bills. The deputy told him he would likely be asked to take a polygraph examination, but Stearnes said he was a nervous person and taking medicine and there was no way he could ever pass a polygraph.

Stearnes told an officer that the two of them also engaged in bondage with different items used. Police obtained a search warrant for his house, and no such items were found.

The two children in the house did not hear anything and offered no incriminating evidence.

In 2017, the victim reported that Stearnes held her in the home and wouldn’t let her leave, the release cited. He was charged with Abuduction: Depriving of Liberty, which was taken under advisement for a year with a condition of no contact. Within weeks the victim returned to him and moved back into the house. The victim said she had no choice because she had nowhere else to go, had cut back on her job to go to a nursing program to earn her nursing degree, and needed his help financially.

The charge was later reduced to Assault and Battery a Family Member.

Clement said that the prosecution and the defense had strong evidence on each side. He said the victim made a very convincing witness, having testified excellently in the preliminary hearing. He said the recorded telephone conversation was devastating to the defendant, stating that it was obvious Stearnes had done something and was trying to manipulate and control the victim.

Clement said he chose to amend the sex charge to Malicious Bodily Injury and drop the Rape charge as a compromise to get a guaranteed outcome. He said he also interviewed two of Stearnes’ previous wives, and they both stated that he had been controlling, manipulative, physical and paranoid, but had never sexually assaulted them. Both agreed that his attempt to dominate them was frightening and extreme, monitoring them, their phones, their cars, and making their lives miserable.

Stearnes’s prior criminal record includes three misdemeanor counts of Damaging Property in 1998, Stalking in 2016, Assault and Battery a Family Member in 2017, and Annoying Telephone Calls in 2017.

In addition to his incarceration, the defendant received an additional suspended sentence of 13 years and will be subject to conditions of good behavior for 40 years, supervised probation upon his release indefinitely, warrantless searches for 10 years, no contact with the victim, counseling on “Respect for Women and Maintaining Healthy Personal Relationships,” and Staying Out of Lunenburg County for 10 years commencing upon his release (a provision requested by the defendant in exchange for a lesser active sentence).