A Milan Township man was sentenced Monday to life without parole for raping two young girls multiple times at his Mudbrook Road home.
A jury found Joseph Wagner, 62, guilty on ten counts of rape June 11 for assaulting the girls, who were both under the age of 10 at the time of the abuse.
Between 2011 and 2013, Wagner lured the girls to his bedroom on nights they slept over at his home, officials said.
During a statement at his Wednesday sentencing hearing in the courtroom of Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Roger Binette, Wagner maintained his innocence.
“I did not abuse anyone, nor have I ever even considered the heinous things I've been accused of,” Wagner said.
Wagner called the allegations against him and his subsequent conviction a “travesty.”
Binette agreed that a travesty indeed occurred, but not in the way Wagner argued it did.
“You groomed them in your own sick ways...you made (your bedroom) a torture chamber for those two children,” Binette said prior to handing down Wagner's sentence.
The victims' mother also took the opportunity to make a statement to the court.
“He took something from them they can never get back: their innocence,” she wrote.
One argument Wagner's attorneys presented to indicate he was not guilty of the crimes was his failing health. But the girls' mother said Wagner's medical problems were a ruse.
Wagner never used a walking aide before he made his court appearances, the woman said. She watched as Wagner began to show up for hearings first with a cane, then a walker, and finally a wheelchair.
The woman also spoke of Wagner's alleged history of violating children.
Another woman who said Wagner abused her decades ago told the court she was aware of at least five other people Wagner assaulted.
Binette said he took that testimony into consideration when he decided to sentence Wagner to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
In addition to his prison sentence, Wagner must also pay about $6,000 in restitution for counseling costs and reimbursement for the victims' parents' time off work.
Additionally, Wagner's counselors asked Binette to send him to a geriatric prison due to his health problems.
But the judge opted against that request and left it up to corrections officers.
Binette told Wagner his abuse was akin to a lifetime sentence for the girls—and that the court would be returning that sentence in kind.