CANTON -- A 10-year-old girl walked confidently across the courtroom and stood near an assistant prosecutor.
Several feet away was Dennis L. Menefee, the 46-year-old who abducted and sexually assaulted her on Sept. 26 while she was walking home from the Massillon Public Library. Menefee was moments away from pleading guilty to rape and other charges.
Menefee, whose former address is listed in court records as Port Washington in Tuscarawas County, was about to be sentenced to life in prison with no chance for early release plus an additional 26 years.
Before Stark County Common Pleas Judge Kristin Farmer accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Menefee, Fred Scott, an assistant Stark County prosecutor, read a statement on behalf of the girl.
"I was walking home from the library and (Menefee) pulled up to me," the statement began. "He said he was a cop and said people were calling the police saying I was a runaway... He was too close and he grabbed me. He threw me in the truck and drove off to a parking lot behind a (restaurant). I ... tried pushing him off and fighting him. But he was too heavy and started punching me."
Menefee raped her and threatened to kill the girl if she told anybody. The victim described the black eyes and bruises she suffered as well as her favorite outfit being ruined with blood.
She walked home tired, on the verge of passing out. And "even now," she wrote, "I still have nightmares and I can't even go across the street to play with my friends without worrying that this is going to happen again. I haven't walked to the store or the library again because any car that comes near me, I get really scared."
The intensity of the written statement continued: "I really hope people in prison do to you what you did to me. I hope you rot in the place you belong, prison."
Menefee avoided a trial set for July by pleading guilty to the rape counts plus a charge of having a weapon under disability. Attached to the charges were sexually violent predator, repeat violent offender and firearm specifications.
He forced the girl into a truck near Cherry Road and Second Street NE, according to court records. The girl told investigators that her abductor had been wearing a traffic vest. A firearm and handcuffs were on the seat of the vehicle, police said. The girl described her attacker's vehicle to police, leading to his arrest.
Menefee received the maximum punishment under the law, Scott said. Farmer sentenced the defendant to two life prison terms with no chance of parole on each of the rape counts; the additional 26 years is related to the weapons charge and specifications.
A kidnapping charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement reached between the prosecutor's office and Menefee and his attorney, Wayne Graham. Scott handled the case with co-counsel and fellow Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Petricini.
"I'm extremely pleased with the result of this case," Scott said. The sentence "assures that (Menefee) will never leave prison."
And the child victim "didn't have to relive (the abduction and rape) again in front of strangers (during trial testimony)."
Several members of the Great Lakes (Ohio) chapter of Warriors for the Children attended the court hearing in support of the child victim.
Tammy Decker, of Euclid, said the group's mission is to help abused, bullied and neglected children. "We empower them to be able to do what (the girl) did today. She stood up in court."
In 1999, Menefee pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Wyoming. He picked up a woman in his truck that January, drove her to a remote location and sexually assaulted her before forcing the woman out of the truck when it was 30 degrees below zero, causing her to die of hypothermia, according to court records filed in the case by the prosecutor's office.
Menefee is also accused of raping a 15-year-old child in June 2015 in Tuscarawas County, Scott said. He has not been indicted in that case because the Stark County Prosecutor's Office asked the Tuscarawas County Prosecutor's Office to delay the investigation in light of the pending Stark County case, Scott said.
Farmer told Menefee that his criminal history is proof that his predatory conduct was not an isolated incident.
"You were not satisfied with taking the life of a woman in the state of Wyoming," she said. "... You stole and shattered the innocence of a victim and of the community."
Added the judge: "You represent every parent's worst nightmare, and to every child, you are the face of the bogeyman."
Given an opportunity to address the court, Menefee stood up, bracing his hands on a table.
Hunched over, Menefee spoke in a low voice, sometimes mumbling before his voice trailed off with emotion. He said he was "ashamed" and "sorry."
The defendant also spoke of depression and drug use. "I feel like a monster," he said, sobbing. "I have a daughter of my own, the same age. I can only imagine how your parents feel.
"... I just hope that anybody using any drugs or fighting with depression and not seeking help for it, I'd like to be able to talk to them ... and help them get help and avoid making a mistake like I made, and I deserve every minute I spend in prison."