By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
A courtroom filled with about 30 divided family members and friends watched an elderly man accused of decades of sexual abuse receive his sentence Friday.
Robert E. Whipple, 78, received a 35-year fully executed sentence after being convicted of Class A felony child molestation earlier in the month. Madison Circuit Court 6 Judge Dennis Carroll determined the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating, and said Whipple abused his position of trust with his victim, his 16-year-old step-granddaughter.
The Herald Bulletin normally doesn’t publish victim’s names, but the step-granddaughter, Destinee, and a niece, Angel, agreed to be identified by their first names.
The conviction was only for the case involving Destinee, who testified she was raped when she was 13 and abused since she was 9 by Whipple. But two other relatives of Whipple, Angel and his 53-year-old biological daughter, testified in sentencing that they had been abused years before Destinee.
Destinee said her short life has already been impacted very negatively because of Whipple, and she still has nightmares of the attacks.
“I’ve never been torn down so much by one person,” the 16-year-old said to the courtroom.
Whipple’s daughter said she’s been waiting 50 years for him to pay for the abuse she suffered. She said knowing Whipple was incarcerated made her recent birthday the happiest of her life.
Support in the family was deeply divided in the courtroom Friday. Whipple’s current wife Mary, and son Ed, said Whipple is a moral and decent man, and claimed his impotency and advanced age made the accusations against him impossible. They argued the rest of the family is out for revenge and money.
“I don’t know what he might have been like before, but for the 21 years I’ve known him, he’s been a good man, and I love him,” Mary Whipple said.
Angel, who testified against Whipple, said some of her earliest memories were being abused by Whipple, and the portrayal of him as a good man is a sham.
She accused Whipple of molesting her in the late 1970s for three or four years before she finally gained the courage to speak up in 1980. Anderson police investigated the allegations and Whipple was convicted of a Class C felony and was punished with two years of counseling.
Carroll said the greatest aggravating factor was the pattern of behavior exhibited by Whipple.
“The evidence we heard speaks to character, and I can’t ignore that,” Carroll said.
Whipple, who has suffered a long list of health issues in recent years, will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
Defense attorney John Razumich, who had a motion for a mistrial denied by Carroll before the sentencing, said there could be issues with the conviction heading into appeals. He called into question some of the evidence gathered, and felt the charges should have been reduced to Class B felonies.
“We’re obviously not pleased with the result, but we obviously did the best we could, considering the facts of the case,” Razumich said.
Family and friends supporting Destinee gathered on Level 3 of the Madison County Court Building after the hearing for a somber celebration. Deputy prosecutor Jeff Lockwood said he’s pleased with the sentencing, though the lives of the victims will never be the same.
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