Vancamp sentenced for sexual abuse
Roger Vancamp, Middlebourne , who was convicted in March on one count, felony sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust, appeared in Tyler County Circuit Court Thursday to face sentencing by Judge David W. Hummel, Jr.
Vancamp, who has been incarcerated in the North Central Regional Jail since his conviction, was represented by his attorney, John Gainer.
Vancamp’s felony conviction carries a sentence of not less than ten, nor more than twenty, years in prison. However, due to Vancamp’s recidivist status (resulting from a prior conviction on a similar charge in Texas in 1998), the sentence statute is upped to a mandatory 20 years.
Attorney for the defense, John Gainer, called several witnesses to testify on Vancamp’s behalf. Among those who testifed were a granddaughter, daughter, friend, uncle, and Vancamp’s wife, Sherrie.
“He’s never harmed me in any way,” testified Vancamp’s granddaughter. “I would like to see him come home.”
Jodie Yost, Vancamp’s daughter, stated that she had not lived with her father since the age of four or five, but there had been “no sexual advances” towards her. “He’s a very caring, giving person,” she said, “just a wonderful person.”
A friend who said she’d known Vancamp for eight years attested that Vancamp “is a great guy.”
“I have two children who love him to death,” she said.
“He’s fixed my car, he painted my house,” she added, saying that she felt that Vancamp presented no danger to anyone.
Vancamp’s uncle informed the court that Vancamp is “a hard worker, a good person.” He also attested that he felt that Vancamp was no threat to society.
Last to speak on Vancamp’s behalf was Sherrie Vancamp, his wife of seven years. The couple have no children together.
“We’ve been married seven years,” she stated, “happily married. I love him with all my heart. I can’t imagine life without him.”
“He just doesn’t have it in him to harm anyone,” she said.
Vancamp also spoke to Judge Hummel on his own behalf. “I have a good home life. I don’t go anywhere, I don’t do anything. I’ve never been in serious trouble with the law,” he stated.
“I’m a good person, and I have lots of friends. I’d do anything for anyone.”
Vancamp’s attorney addressed the issue of sentencing. “The cost to society, to the state, for Mr. Vancamp to be incarcerated for ten to twenty years, would be prohibitive” said Gainer, as he argued for home confiinement.
Speaking for the state, Prosecuting Attorney D. Luke Furbee began by telling the court his duty is, first and foremost, to enforce the laws and statutes of West Virginia.
“It’s not personal,” Furbee said. “It’s my duty to uphold and enforce the laws of this state.”
“The issue is not about guilt. A case was presented to a jury of Roger Vancamp’s peers, here in this courtroom. He was found guilty by those jurors,” Furbee stated.
“Those jurors witnessed a young girl fighting against fear to testify at trial,” Furbee went on, adding, “The worst thing I had to do, was have her testify in front of those people.”
“He didn’t just do this to (the victim),” he continued. “He did it to another daughter.” – (referring to Vancamp’s 1998 Texas conviction of sexual assault of a child.)
“All we’ve heard today is ‘I’m not guilty’.” Furbee continued. “He refuses to take responsibility for what happened. As I said during the trial, we live in a blame-shifting society, blaming the victim.
“I would like to read a statement from the victim’s mother about the impact this has had on her daughter.”
The Prosecutor then read from the written statement. The victim’s mother stated “the crime committed has hurt our family in so many ways” and that her daughter had trusted Vancamp. “She trusted you,” said the letter. “You broke that trust.”
The letter went on to describe the negative impact on the victim, who now has trouble sleeping, has nightmares, and is upset and angry. The victim’s mother also stated that the teen’s schoolwork had suffered, and that “it’s a small community. She gets talked about, and called names.”
“I’ve tried to forgive you,” the letter concluded. “Maybe one day, with God’s help, I can. You should ask God to forgive you.”
Furbee concluded his argument by reminding the court the statute as a repeat offender requires a twenty year sentence.
Furbee added, “What a tragedy it is that the law doesn’t protect the innocent from further victimization.”
Vancamp, who was given a chance to rebut the prosecution’s remarks, stated “I don’t agree with the prosecutor. He’s implying I did something majorly disastrous to (the victim). There was no real sexual abuse.”
“I don’t agree with (the mother’s) letter, either,” Vancamp concluded.
Before handing down the sentence, Judge Hummel explained what the purpose of sentencing conveys.
“A sentence provides retribution – recompense for an anti-societal act,” he said. “This crime is possibly the purest of anti-societal acts, as it is a violation against one’s person.”
“A sentencing is to provide as a deterrent – to send a message and to discourage society from same or similar acts. It serves as an incapacitation, restricting the liberties of the convicted.”
Hummel then admonished the spectators in the courtroom. “Before I pass judgement, I instruct you to remain silent, no matter what the outcome. If you feel you can’t remain quiet, leave now.”
The judge said, “Mr. Vancamp, you have in fact been convicted of sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust.”
Judge Hummel then read from a portion of the court transcript of the victim’s testimony.
“When you say that Roger Vancamp touched you inappropriately, what do you mean?”
(Victim) “I was laying on the couch and Roger came and sat down beside me. He asked to borrow my lighter.”
“He was rubbing my back underneath my pajamas. I told him it made me uncomfortable.” The witness went on to tell the court that Vancamp left her alone for a time, then repeated his actions.
“He asked me for another light,” she said. “He sat down beside me again. He started rubbing the inside of my legs.”
“This is what you were convicted of, Mr. Vancamp,” Hummel said.
“It is my opinion that sexual offenders do not rehabilitate. As part of the terms of your conviction, if you are ever released, you can never again be around children,” stated the judge. “I must sentence you, according to recidivist statute, to twenty years in prison.”
As member of Vancamp’s family gasped audibly, the judge continued and said that required DNA and HIV testing must be done.
In a stunning conclusion, Judge Hummel then informed Vancamp that after December 31 of this year, his status would be modifed to home confinement.
“Home confinement is not easy,” the judge advised. “It is not a slap on the wrist. If you violate the terms, you will do twenty years.”
“Child sexual abuse cases are absolutely the hardest cases to investigate, prosecute, try and live with personally, for all involved,” Prosecuting Attorney Luke Furbee said at the conclusion of the trial that convicted Vancamp.
“It has been established in two courts in two different states now that the defendant is a child abuser. He is a repeat sexual offender, not a petty thief,” said Furbee.
“Those are the facts which led the State to recommend the recidivist prison term of twenty years. Those facts were presented to the court.”
“However,” Furbee stated, “sentencing is a judicial function. The court’s opinion is the only one that matters, and I respect it.”
Vancamp was remanded into custody at the conclusion of the sentencing.