Published October 03 2011
75-year-old West Fargo man to serve 18 months in prison for molesting kids next doorFARGO – A 75-year-old West Fargo man who was convicted in May of sexually abusing three children – and has since continued to live next door to them – will spend 18 months in prison and cannot live within 400 yards of his victims when he is released, a judge ordered today.
Ned D. VanDyke continued to maintain his innocence during today’s sentencing hearing in Cass County District Court.
“I’m innocent. I thought the world of those kids,” he said, adding there was no sexual contact between him and the children.
The children’s mother, Jen Silverman, told Judge Frank Racek that it’s been difficult for the children to understand how a man convicted of abusing them can be allowed to remain free. She called VanDyke a “manipulative, dangerous criminal” who took advantage of her family’s trust, letting the children play for hours in his garage and buying them treats even when she asked him not to.
“They’ll be happy to hear that he’s not going to be there anymore,” Silverman said after the hearing.
The youngest child was 4 years old and the oldest child was 8 at the start of the period of abuse between Jan. 1, 2007, and June 8, 2010, Cass County Assistant State’s Attorney Reid Brady.
Brady asked the judge to make VanDyke serve 10 years of the maximum 20-year sentence for Class A felony gross sexual imposition, with the sentences to run concurrently for each of the three counts.
Instead, Racek imposed five-year concurrent sentences for each count, of which VanDyke will serve a total of 18 months followed by five years of probation. VanDyke also must register as a sex offender, have no contact with the victims and stay at least 400 yards away from them.
Racek considered several mitigating factors in determining the sentence, including VanDyke’s lack of a prior criminal record, his age and health problems, and the fact that the time frame for the sexual abuse remains unclear.
“The evidence at trial was not that definite as far as time frames and exactly what happened. … But the jury found the defendant guilty,” Racek said. He noted the children had “a strong presence” at trial and were “firm in their testimony.”
VanDyke’s attorney, Mark Beauchene, said the allegations were “very confusing” and the children’s statements were “oftentimes inconsistent if not polar opposite” of their previous statements.
“I certainly thought that it would have been very easy for the jury to find my client not guilty,” said Beauchene, whose motion for a judgment of acquittal after the trial was earlier denied by Racek.
VanDyke’s wife, Terri, sat behind her husband and across the aisle from Silverman in the courtroom.
The Forum typically does not publish information that may identify victims of sexual crimes, but Silverman has said she wanted to draw attention to the issue because she feels too many people are afraid to speak about sexual abuse.