District Judge Randall Rehmeier handed down a 10 to 20-year prison sentence to a Palmyra man convicted of sexual assault and child enticement.
Otoe County Sheriffs’ Office investigators say a nine-year-old girl was walking home from school on Aug. 20 when Kenneth Cranford, 68, asked her to help him unload boxes from his van.
Investigators say he put his hand inside of her clothing and when she attempted to get away he placed her in the cab of his van.
Special Otoe County prosecutor Julie Smith Hogancamp said when another car pulled up Cranford released the girl, gave her $1 and told her not to tell what had happened.
She said Cranford had earlier befriended the girl and her siblings, sometimes paying them pennies to pick up litter from around his residence.
Otoe County Public Defender Michael Ziskey asked for a sentence of time-served and probation.
He said Cranford is in poor health, he is blind in one eye and is hard of hearing. He compared a lengthy prison term to a life sentence.
Smith-Hogancamp described his behavior as victim “grooming” and said he is a risk to re-offend.
“He is a high risk because he has already re-offended,” she said.
She noted that Cranford was convicted of a 1985 sexual assault in Hall County that began with a 10-year-old girl and ended seven years later with his arrest.
She said the offense occurred before Nebraska’s sexual offender registration law, so the Palmyra family did not know about his past.
The Palmyra girl’s parents were in the courtroom Monday.
“Unlike the first victim he was able to victimize for seven years, this victim did tell someone,” Smith-Hogancamp said.
She said Cranford told authorities in the 1985 case, where Cranford served a three to six-year sentence, that the girl had in some way enticed him.
She said he also offers excuses in the current case.
She said Cranford said he had lost his mother at an early age, that his wife had died a few years ago and he had been drinking on Aug. 20.
Ziskey said Cranford had lived a law-abiding life for 28 years and said it is not true that he was “grooming” the child.
He called the incident a “moment of weakness” and said Cranford is sorry for what happened.
Judge Rehmeier said Cranford “does somewhat tend to minimize or justify his actions.”
“It may have been a moment of weakness on his part but that does not negate the impact it has on the child,” Judge Rehmeier said.
Cranford was sentenced to 5 to 5 years in prison for sexual assault of a child.
Page 2 of 2 - He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for child enticement, subsequent offense.
He will serve five years before he is eligible for parole.