Throughout the sentencing Monday morning of admitted child molester Richard Dale Evans, 59, muffled sobs filled a Stockton courtroom as parents of the victim described how their lives have been forever altered.
The former Lodi Unified School District bus driver was sentenced by San Joaquin Superior Court Judge Franklin Stephenson to 25 years and four months for multiple counts, including kidnapping and lewd acts on a minor. He must serve 85 percent of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Evans pleaded guilty last month to molesting an 8-year-old girl with special needs on board a district school bus last November.
“I don’t understand how people can act like animals,” said Angel, the father of the victim, who was not required to give his last name for the record in order to protect his daughter’s identity. “Your stupidity has turned her life around.”
Standing barely more than 5 feet tall, Angel spoke sternly and deliberately to Evans, who never turned and made eye contact. Angel struggled to maintain his composure throughout his brief address.
Evans was arrested by the Stockton Police Department on Nov. 4, 2010, after the victim told her parents of the abuse. He pleaded guilty in late June to multiple charges of committing lewd acts on a minor by use of force or fear, one count of kidnapping a victim younger than 14 and two special allegations of sex crimes.
The incidents took place in October and November while he was serving as an on-call bus driver and one was caught on surveillance tape, said San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Kristine Reed.
Evans molested the victim at the start of his route when he and the victim were the only people on the bus, the district attorney’s office said. The longtime Lodi resident was a full-time employee of the district from 2004 to 2007 and operated a driving school in town that closed early in 2010.
Monday’s sentencing featured the grief-stricken parents of the victim making statements about the punishment and their future.
Angel read from a pre-written letter about the trauma his daughter has experienced and how the sex crime’s aftermath left him feeling helpless.
“I will never forget when my princess hugged me and said she wished I had been there so I could have protected her,” he said.
Angel broke down after the last line and quietly sat down before the victim’s mother, Maria, addressed the court.
“This person,” she said through an interpreter. “He knew they were special kids who were helpless.”
Maria said she couldn’t believe something so horrible could happen mere miles from her home and vividly recalls seeing Evans pull up to pick her daughter up on Nov. 3.
“Every day I remember his face,” she said. “I see him in his khaki shorts and white shirt and hear him ask my daughter if she is ready. Then she looked at him, lowered her head and got on the bus.”
Evans also spoke before the court.
With a trembling voice, he apologized for the pain and suffering he inflicted on the victim, her family and those who love him. He cited the book of Matthew while asking for mercy from those he harmed.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins,” he said.
Emotions spilled into the hallway after Evans was led away by bailiffs and court was adjourned.
Evans’ wife, Cheri Evans, exchanged hugs with the roughly 12 people who showed up to support her and her husband. She spoke briefly to the News-Sentinel before leaving the courthouse, saying she and Evans have been together 37 years and will remain married. She has no intention of divorcing her husband and will support him as he serves his sentence, she said.
Cheri Evans empathized with the victim and her family and said she hopes God will bring them peace.
Her husband had confessed his actions to her after he accepted a plea deal last month, she said, and he said that he never set out with the intent to victimize someone.
Although he pleaded guilty to molesting the victim on multiple occasions, Evans’ wife said her husband’s crime was a solitary and isolated incident. She declined to comment on if he told her what drove him to do it.
“It caught me completely out of the blue,” she said about Evans’ arrest and eventual confession. “This is not my husband. The man who did this is not the man I know.”
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.