In a Fresno courtroom Wednesday, the soft-spoken teenager looked at the man who raped her when she was a mere child and asked, why?
A shackled Orlando Morfin refused to tell her.
For committing one of the most horrific crimes imaginable, Judge Houry Sanderson sentenced the 31-year-old Morfin to 160 years to life in prison for repeatedly sexually abusing the girl from 2007 to 2010 when she was 7 to 10 years old.
“You left a gaping hole in her heart and soul,” Sanderson told the defendant.
The case began five years ago when the girl, then 10 years old, told a school official that Morfin was sexually abusing her. This led Sanger police to accuse Morfin of rape, sodomy and oral copulation of the 10-year old. Morfin, however, avoided prosecution for a year by fleeing to Mexico.
With help from Mexican authorities, the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force found Morfin in Mexico in August 2011. He’s been in Fresno County Jail ever since, awaiting trial.
Court records say Morfin was tried initially in August 2013. The jury found him guilty of felony sexual penetration of the 10-year-old and guilty of a misdemeanor charge of annoying another child under age 18, but jurors deadlocked 11-1 for guilt on seven other felony charges involving the 10-year-old.
Because the verdict was not unanimous, prosecutor Brian Hutchins was allowed to retry Morfin. The retrial, in front of a different jury, led to his conviction of seven sex-abuse charges last month in Sanderson’s courtroom.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the girl, whose name was kept confidential, sat among family and friends while two sheriff’s bailiffs guarded Morfin.
The school official whose tip to police led to Morfin’s arrest told the judge that Morfin stole the girl’s innocence. “This has been a long journey for a innocent girl who trusted (the defendant),” the school official said. She then urged Sanderson to give Morfin the maximum sentence.
The girl then told the judge: “He took sometime from me that can’t be replaced. I wish he didn’t do it.”
Defense attorney Jane Boulger of the Public Defender’s Office, however, told Sanderson that Morfin maintains his innocence. “His position is that he did not commit the acts,” Boulger said. Instead, Morfin contends that an adult convinced the girl that she was sexually abused and told her what to say, Bougler told the judge.
But Hutchins said there was ample evidence to prove Morfin had sexually abused the girl for several years. He also said Morfin betrayed the girl and violated her trust. “He forced her to do what he wanted,” the prosecutor said.
In asking for the maximum penalty, Hutchins said the girl didn’t want Morfin to have a chance at freedom because she feared having to testify against him at parole hearings.
Sanger Police Chief Silver Rodriguez was pleased at the sentence given to Morfin. “Morfin has eluded justice far too long,” Silver said, “and now will be held accountable for his actions.”
Noting that she was the trial judge who heard the evidence, Sanderson told Morfin that conduct was “unimaginable” and “ not becoming of a human being.”
Sanderson then noted Morfin’s prior convictions for battery and domestic violence.
Sanderson told the girl that she may never know why Morfin did what he did. The judge said it was her hope that “you can move forward without looking back.”
In announcing the maximum punishment, Sanderson looked sternly at Morfin and said: “She was violated by you over and over again.”
Afterwards, the girl and her supporters thanked Hutchins for never giving up on the case.