William B. Neff, 51, of Rt. 1 Box 13B, Middlebourne, is to return to court June 5 for sentencing on two counts of sexual abuse by a custodian.
He had pleaded guilty to the charges on April 3, at which time the following charges were dismissed: two counts of incest, six counts of sexual abuse by a parent, three counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, and one count of sexual assault in the second degree.
Neff appeared before Judge Mark A. Karl on Friday for a hearing to argue sentencing.
In his opening statement, Prosecutor Luke Furbee said a famous statesman said, "You can tell a lot about the morality of the community by the way it protects its most innocent citizens, that being children." He said in the past he is aware that this court has maintained a clear and consistent policy that treacherous acts committed against children, such as the one in Neff's case, will not be tolerated and will not go unpunished. "There is no reason for the court, whatsoever, to deviate from that policy in this case." He said, "In fact, your honor, I'll represent that this case contains the most heinous allegations and truths of a father sexually molesting his own children that I have seen in my 10 years as prosecutor in Tyler County."
Furbee said it was without a doubt about all he could stomach to verbally tell the court about the things that Neff had done. He said Neff's children are good, but with some limitation. "But I'll tell you, they deserve to be taken care of," said Furbee. "They deserve to have a father who cared for them, to teach them how to be (an adult). To protect them from all harm. Instead their father made them the object of his own perverted lust, to trample the law of nature down."
The teacher who talked to the victim gave a statement that the student paused and their eyes filled up with tears and said their dad was touching them all over. "On return from visiting with the counselor, the victim said Neff made a motion as if to cut his neck if he told anyone," noted Furbee. "The defendant admitted as much when he gave his statement to Deputy Huffman, when Neff said, 'I might have said I would put pills in their food and that I would stab them in the neck, but I didn't mean it.'
Furbee continued, "And even when he was faced with the removal of the boys, all that he was worried about was himself. One of the deputies said that on multiple occasions he said that he wasn't going to be able to pay his bills now that his paycheck had been taken from him. The defendant has no remorse for what he's done. He's had the benefit of 12 counts dismissed already. Therefore, your honor, the state would maintain that the dignity of the community is at stake."
For the justice of the victims and community, Furbee argued that the court to impose the sentence of the law-not less than 10 years nor more than 20 years for each count. The state moved that they run consecutively and Neff be remanded to the Division of Corrections immediately to begin serving such sentence. Further, Furbee said if and when Neff is released from custody, he should be placed on 50 years of supervised probation, according to the plea agreement, and be required to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life.
Defense attorney John Gainer said he would ask the court to impose the sentences to run concurrently. He said if Neff is sentenced to two 10- to 20-year sentences, he will be 72 years old, at the youngest, when he gets out of prison. Gainer said that although the crimes he pleaded guilty to are very serious in nature, "I don't believe Mr. Neff will do any of those things again if placed on probation and kept properly supervised. He is not the kind of monster the state is making him out to be." He said he had a few people in the courtroom who would like to speak on Neff's behalf and talk about his good character.
Judge Karl told Neff he had a right to speak at this time and asked him if he had anything to say. Neff said, "No, except I promise you I will never do it again." Earl Bowser, custodian attorney for the children, said he fully supported the state's position on sentencing.
Gainer called Joyce Neff, wife of William Neff, to the stand. Gainer asked her if, during the nearly 20 years they had been married, if he had been a good husband. She he has been a good husband and supported her and the children. Joyce Neff testified that her husband had never had any problems with the law and she believed he would abide by the rules of probation if he was released. Further testimony said he did not use drugs or alcohol, only took his prescription medicines.
Gainer asked Joyce Neff to tell the court, in her own words, why her husband should be released on probation. She said, "He's a good man, I know he should be on probation because he is a good person, because he never hurt none of his nieces or nephews. So I believe he should have probation."
Prosecutor Furbee asked Joyce Neff if she was aware that her husband, the defendant in this case, had pleaded guilty to molesting her children. She said, "Yea, I heard that." Fubee said, "Well are you aware that he has pleaded guilty to molesting your child?" She said, "Yea, I've heard that he pleaded guilty. "But he's never hurt his nieces or nephews, so how can he hurt his own kids?" Furbee asked,"So you want to maintain today before this court that it would be justice for your own child that he be placed on probation for sexually molesting them?" She said, "Yes."
Gainer, on redirect said, "You have talked to your husband since this incident haven't you?" She said she had. Gainer asked her if her husband had shown remorse and felt sympathy for the children. She said he had.
Gainer then called his second witness, Bessie L. Matthews. She was a former neighbor of the Neffs. "I got to know him and Joyce a lot better when they lived in the apartments above me, because we were in and out constantly," said Matthews. "He was around my son. I never had no problem of my son ever saying anything about him bothering him. My son would go up and visit with Bill and they would come down."
While she didn't live near them anymore, Matthews said, "I would see them at Witschey's and see the two children. They were very polite, very well behaved. I never seen anything out of the ordinary out of those two children. And I never seen anything out of the ordinary even with Bill before he was married or after the children were born did I see anything." She concluded by saying the Neffs were good neighbors.
Furbee asked her if she was aware that that William Neff has pleaded guilty to touching his own children's privates, for sexual gratification. She said, "Yes, I am aware that he has pleaded guilty." She went on to testify that she was aware he had pleaded guilty to some specific offenses. "With that being the case," said Furbee, "what kind of sentence do you believe he deserves?" Matthews answered, "He's not going to be around his children, but he is going to be in the community. . . I think he deserves not to be used as an example."