A convicted sex offender was sentenced to 70 years to life in prison for sexually assaulting the children who lived in a home in Highlands Ranch where he was staying, according to a Nov. 22 media …
A convicted sex offender was sentenced to 70 years to life in prison for sexually assaulting the children who lived in a home in Highlands Ranch where he was staying, according to a Nov. 22 media release from the Office of the District Attorney of the 18th Judicial District.
Douglas County District Court Judge Shay Whitaker sentenced 41-year-old John E. Cornell to 70 years to life in the Department of Corrections on Nov. 17 after he pleaded guilty Oct. 20 to four counts of sex assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, the release states. Because of the plea agreement, the children did not have to take the stand and 69 other counts were dropped.
A therapist of one of the children notified the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in November 2016 when the child mentioned during a session that he had seen “bad” images of Cornell molesting his sister, the release says. Cornell has a criminal record including a sexual assault case that required him to register as a sex offender, but he was frequently charged with failure to register.
In 2016, Cornell was out on parole after serving prison time for an attempted escape conviction. With his parole officer's approval, he moved into the Highlands Ranch home of the mother of the children, a woman with whom he had a prior relationship, according to the release.
District Attorney George Brauchler said parole should never be an option for someone with Cornell's profile.
“Our poorly led Department of Corrections bears some responsibility for this horrible case,” Brauchler said in the release. “Parole is not a vehicle to empty our prisons of monsters like this for fiscal or political purposes.”
While living in the Highlands Ranch home, Cornell assaulted two of the resident's children and her niece, the release says. One of the children told the resident, but she failed to report it to authorities and continued to allow Cornell to live in her home and have access to the children, the release says.
“Anxiety follows me, clouding over me every day,” the niece told the judge in a letter read during sentencing. “I remember what he did to me every night, like a horrible nightmare playing in my mind.”
When officials discovered the abuse, the woman who lived in the home helped Cornell by destroying pornographic images he had taken of the children, the release states.
The sex assault counts mandate an indeterminate sentence, which means the Department of Corrections can choose to incarcerate Cornell longer if it is determined he is still dangerous and not rehabilitated, the release says.
“I can think of no situation where a sentence of this length or nature were more appropriate than for this defendant and for these crimes,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Gallo, who prosecuted the case with Deputy District Attorney Val Brewster.
The woman who let Cornell stay in the home pleaded guilty June 26 to tampering with evidence, a Class 6 felony. On Sept. 18, she was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 50 hours of community service and two years of probation. She no longer has custody of her children, according to the release.