Man gets indeterminate life sentence for sexual assault on a child

Grand County District Court Judge Mary Hoak on Thursday gave a man the harshest sentence possible under state law for what the judge called one of the worst cases the court has ever seen.

During a sentencing hearing for Larry Darnell, 52, who in May pleaded guilty to felony sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust as part of a pattern, Darnell’s attorney claimed his client had amnesia of his crimes.

“There is an issue with his cognition,” defense attorney Chad Oxman said as he tried to argue Darnell suffers from serious memory issues that need treatment. “Mr. Darnell wasn’t necessarily uncooperative because he really has memory issues.”

Darnell did not speak at the hearing.

In response, Chief Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Dowdell said she believes Darnell is a liar and called his claims of memory loss “offensive,“ as she pointed out that Darnell recorded multiple assaults of the child.

“I just simply don’t believe Mr. Darnell in his statements. I don’t believe, as Mr. Oxman called it, that he has amnesia of the crime,” Dowdell said. “This was not a one-time event. This was sustained abuse that happened over months and years. It was calculated abuse.”

Judge Hoak said Darnell’s memory loss was essentially irrelevant because of the video evidence and sentenced him to the harshest possible penalty for sex crimes in Colorado — an indeterminate life sentence.

Hoak added that it was rare to have explicit evidence proving what happened.

“This is one of worst sexual assault cases this court has seen,” Hoak said. “Mr. Darnell is welcome to deny remembering anything he’s done, but the bottom line here is that the court’s understanding is he videotaped his crime, or at least part of it.”

With an indeterminate sentence, the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board will be responsible for the exact length of Darnell’s incarceration, for which 16 years imprisonment will be the minimum, though the board can keep him imprisoned indefinitely.

He will receive 583 days credit for time served.

Darnell was arrested in February 2020 following a Grand County Sheriff’s Office investigation that led to three men being charged in connection to the case.

According to the arrest warrant, Darnell drugged the child with methamphetamine and assaulted the child over the course of at least two years while also allowing the other two men to assault the child in his presence.

In March, Eric R. Cordero, 48, was sentenced to 18 years for assault with a deadly weapon and attempted sexual assault on a person under 15 years.

Daniel Gutierrez, 26, pleaded guilty to the same charges in April. However, Gutierrez’s sentencing has been delayed while he undergoes a court-ordered competency evaluation.

Dowdell had previously commented that concluding the cases without trials would be the ideal outcome.

“The resolution of these three cases brings closure and healing to the child victim, allowing the child to focus on moving forward with therapeutic support,” Dowdell said in May.

“The dispositions of these cases prevent this child from being re-victimized because the child will not have to recount the horrors the child lived through during testimony at a trial for any one of these three offenders.”

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