LOGAN — A judge has given the maximum prison sentence to Christopher R. VanDam, saying the 20-year-old Lewiston man’s history of sexually abusing girls and animals was abhorrent.
VanDam appeared in 1st District Court Tuesday morning. He spoke only briefly, telling the court he was sorry, as he sobbed and wiped away tears. He was sentenced on two counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony that he previously pleaded guilty to in October.
State attorney Jacob Gordon said the facts of the case blew his mind. He noted how the criminal activity went on for years, with the defendant never making an effort to change. He pleaded with the court to protect society and issue the maximum prison sentence.
Defense attorney Shannon Demler said the facts of the case are shocking and inappropriate, and will have lasting effects on everyone involved. He noted how his client’s behavior started when he was 7-years-old and was allegedly abused.
VanDam was arrested February 8, suspected of multiple counts of sex abuse and bestiality. He later admitted to molesting a 13-year-old girl. He also pleaded guilty to molesting another girl, who was 17-year-old at the time of the assault.
During Tuesday’s sentencing, the two victims spoke about what VanDam did to them. One of them said, pointing to the defendant, “this person took my rights away from me.” She asked the court to minister proper justice for what happened.
Later, the second victim described how VanDam sexually abused her for years. She said if the defendant was really sorry for what he did, he would have stopped molesting her years ago.
Judge Cannell told the girls he admired their courage. He said they deserved to have joy and hoped they would find it. He sentenced VanDam to serve two terms of one-15-years in prison. He granted the sentences to run at the same time because of the defendant’s young age. He added though, VanDam would not be released from prison until successfully completing a sexual evaluation by the state parole board.
Just before VanDam was taken out of the courtroom, Judge Cannell emotionally told the defendant, “Stealing someone’s virtue in this way, there is nothing worse in my mind other than taking someone’s life, and this comes close to that.”