Bastrop man receives life in sex abuse of daughter

Date: 2007-07-20

Bastrop man receives life in sex abuse of daughter

Molly Bloom
Austin American-Statesman

A 52-year-old Bastrop man who faked his suicide to avoid trial for sexually abusing his adopted teenage daughter was sentenced to two life terms Thursday.

Stephen Douglas James, who pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, will be eligible for parole in 30 years, said Kathryn Holton, a Bastrop County assistant district attorney. James' lawyer, Richard Moore, did not return a call seeking comment.

James jumped bail in August 2004 and was on the run for a year and a half when authorities finally caught up with him in Louisiana. Shortly after he fled, he tried to fake his suicide by leaving his severed finger atop his divorce decree and a tape-recorded suicide note in a Galveston motel room.

James' blood-stained rented kayak and a box cutter were later found near the Houston Ship Channel. He was arrested in December 2005.

James and his wife adopted the girl he abused, who is now 18, and her three brothers after the children's mother became unable to care for them, said the adopted daughter.

The daughter, who asked that her name be withheld, agreed to tell her story to the American-Statesman.

At first, the daughter said, she and her brothers enjoyed living with James, his wife and their biological children. But when the adopted daughter turned 10, James began treating her differently, she said, "like his little princess."

A year later, the sexual abuse started, she said. It happened after dark, in places where nobody else was and when nobody was looking, she said. It happened in his van, in her bed early in the morning, in his bed while no one was home and in his bed when her adoptive mother was in the next room, she said.

Having seen men beat women in other homes she lived in, the adopted daughter was afraid of what James would do to her or her brothers if she told anyone about the abuse, she said.

The adopted daughter finally told her adoptive mother, James' wife, after the mother caught her cheating on a math test in the family's home school. Her mother scolded her for cheating, saying, "I want you to be able to look at yourself in the mirror," the daughter said.

"I said to her, 'I can't anyway,' " the adopted daughter said. "So, we went back into her room, and it took an hour for her to get it out of me what was going on."

When his wife and other family members confronted James, who taught science to home-schoolers, about the abuse, he admitted what he'd done and curled into a fetal position on the floor, the adopted daughter said. The next morning, he turned himself into the police.

During the sentencing phase of the trial, witnesses said James was bipolar and deserved to be sentenced to probation because he had no previous felony convictions, Holton said.

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman Chris Van Deusen said it did not appear that the adopted daughter and her brothers were adopted from Child Protective Services custody.

The department conducts extensive background checks on its foster and adoptive parents, he said. It is possible that the children were adopted in a different state or through a private adoption, he said.

Aggravated sexual assault of a child is a first-degree felony that carries a penalty of five to 99 years in jail. Holton said she was "real pleased" with James' life sentences.

"I think that's a good deterrent for child abusers," Holton said.

The adopted daughter now hopes to enter a residential counseling program and then perhaps junior college. She said she's thinking of becoming a lawyer, a nurse or a prosecutor so that she can help other victims of sexual abuse. The adopted daughter said she was glad that James is serving jail time but doesn't want to see him rot in prison.

"I want him to find forgiveness and find help," she said. "I pray to God that he gets saved in jail."

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the girl

I just wanted to tell those that read this that if I can make it through this (i am the girl from the story) so can you.
I am now happily married and have a ton of help from my family and friends and counselors... Just hang in there

Pound Pup Legacy