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Sentencing handed down for two rapists

Alex Green • Feb 13, 2014 at 5:30 PM

An Ottawa County judge handed down lengthy sentences and harsh words Wednesday in two separate cases where men raped young girls.

Richard Yeager, 37, of LaGrange, was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison for the 2012 rape of a girl. 

In another case, Fred Harder, 40, of Portage Township, was sentenced to 40 years in prison on multiple counts of rape.  

Richard Yeager 

Yeager confessed to raping a minor sometime between October and November of 2012.

On Wednesday in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court, he appeared nervous, constantly shaking his hands within his wrist constraints. His confession came in almost a whisper, difficult to hear.

"Having sexual conduct with a minor," Yeager said faintly, when Judge Bruce Winters asked what he did in 2012.

The victim's grandfather then made a statement.

"I don't know what you were thinking," he said sternly at Yeager, before Winters asked the man not to direct his statement at the defendant. 

"I have two of the most beautiful grandchildren, their souls are absolutely glorious," the grandfather said. "(Yeager) hurt (my family) terribly. They're in intense counseling now. They're struggling."

The grandfather said it was difficult to find the words to express the heinousness of Yeager's acts, and he left Yeager with words from his grandchildren.

"They want him to know, they're praying for him," he said. "And someday he'll seek forgiveness. Everyone has been hurt terribly, and there needs to be some kind of judgement."

The victim's grandmother also spoke.

"(My grandchildren) have gone to the dark side," she said. "They dyed their hair black. They dress in black. (Yeager) may get a life sentence, but (the grandchildren) have been given a life sentence, too."

Fred Harder 

Winters had didn't mince words as he sentenced Harder, a child rapist, to a maximum sentence of 40 years.

"I don't see remorse," Winters said. "Maybe, 'I'm sorry I got caught.'" 

The sentence was 10 years longer than prosecutors' recommended.

"This took place on a daily basis when (the victim) was 12," Winters said. "I can't in good conscience give you 30. It is important for the community to be safe."

Harder offered an ambiguous statement, saying reality was hard for him to decipher.

"I don't know what's real, what isn't," he said. "I want to be better. I don't want to be this way. I want to tell my friends, not many, my family, I'm sorry for everything that's gone on."

In 2012, the victim went to Ottawa County authorities and told them that on her 12th birthday, she became heavily intoxicated with friends. When she awoke the next morning, she suspected she had been raped, according to an Ottawa County deputy's report.

Detectives went to Harder's trailer, which was littered with garbage and had a foul odor. The victim told authorities about the evidence that could be used against Harder, including child pornography.

Investigators gathered other evidence as well, including DNA samples, Ottawa County assistant prosecutor Andrew Bigler said.

Harder, originally charged with more than 70 counts of rape, pleaded guilty in December to four counts of rape. After he was arrested he was also tied to an incident in which a woman found pornographic images of a child in a second-hand purchase she made. The photos had been tucked in a DVD case that was found in a storage unit, which was later traced back to Harder.   

Harder's attorney, Howard Whitcomb, said Harder's scant criminal history should have been a mitigating factor. He also said Harder had been physically abused by his stepfather as a child.

"I hope you find whatever it is that might be of help to you," Winters told Harder as deputies escorted him away. 

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