A man was sentenced to state prison nearly 30 years after he first molested his young neighbor.
Prosecutors charged Charles LeRoy Rutledge on Thursday with 20 counts of sexual abuse of a child, lewd acts on a child, unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, and other sex crimes.
Rutledge, 77, pleaded guilty in the face of strong evidence that included a tape-recorded phone conversation in March with his victim.
At his sentencing, Rutledge listened as his victim recalled details of that staged phone call, made with the assistance of sex crimes detectives from the San Diego Police Department.
"Hello, remember me ?" recounted Beth R., who asked NBC 7 not to use her last name. "(Rutledge) talked and talked, and with my assistance, detailed multiple acts of sexual abuse upon (me)."
Beth alerted NBC 7 to Thursday's sentencing hearing in hopes that coverage of the crimes against her -- and her decades-long journey towards healing -- will empower other victims of sex abuse.
"It's hard to say how everybody heals from being victimized -- if we want to use that word -- but it could mean closure for some, and it could mean the beginning of a process for some and reconcile with their past," Beth said after the hearing.
Rutledge first molested Beth when she was 11 years old. The sex assaults continued for six years until she was 16, prosecutors said.
Rutledge molested and raped Beth hundreds of times in his apartment, which was next door to Beth's home in Allied Gardens, according to court records.
She said she worked for hours writing her victim impact statement, which she practiced aloud repeatedly, some times through tears.
"It's empowering to get to the point where you have a balance of what you want to say, what you need to say, and your feelings supporting that as a strong individual, not the child who was hurt, though you feel extreme empathy for that past self," Beth said.
She also believes Rutledge likely had other victims, because he was active for years in San Diego's kite and wind surfing community, where he had frequent contact with children and teens.
Beth took almost 30 minutes to read her 11-page statement in court. But Judge Laura Halgren and a gallery full of attorneys and spectators listened quietly and respectfully. Rutledge also appeared to listen to her entire statement.
"We are here because of a child rapist," Beth told them. "But we are also here to honor and acknowledge a child who endured multiple hardships, horrible situations that no child should experience, that no person should experience."
After listening to Beth's story, Judge Laura Halgren sentenced Rutledge to ten years in state prison. That term was agreed to by all parties as part of the defendant's plea bargain.
Outside court, prosecutor Jessica Coto said Rutledge will serve at least eight and a half years before he's eligible for parole. He would be 85 by then.
Rutledge must also pay Beth restitution for her pain and suffering.