May 19—OTTAWA — A 77-year-old Cloverdale man likely will spend the rest of his life in prison following his conviction Wednesday for sexually abusing two young girls.
Larry Burkhart showed no emotion when Putnam County Common Pleas Judge Keith Schierloh found him guilty of three counts of rape and six counts of gross sexual imposition, felonies of the first and third degrees, respectively.
Schierloh was the sole trier of facts in the trial after Burkhart waived his constitutional right to have the case heard by a jury. Testimony in the case began and ended Tuesday, with closing arguments from the attorneys in the case presented Wednesday morning. The judge deliberated for less than an hour before rendering his verdicts.
Sentencing was set for June 4. Burkhart's bond was revoked, and he left the courtroom in handcuffs on his way to the Putnam County jail pending sentencing.
The indictments against Burkhart alleged that the incidents occurred between January 2017 and October 2019. He was charged with sexually abusing two female victims, both of whom were under the age of 13 at the time.
Assistant Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Todd Schroeder in his closing arguments Wednesday morning said, "This case is horrible; these events are horrible. This defendant has stolen something (from the victims) that is precious."
Schroeder said Burkhart confessed "over and over again" throughout the investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse and did so again Tuesday when he took the witness stand in his own defense and admitted to accidentally touching the victims.
"The only thing worse than no defense is a bad defense, and this is a bad defense," Schroeder said. "The defense attorney said Larry Burkhart confessed to the crime, and then they put him on the stand and he basically confessed again."
Defense Attorney Hayden Capache said Burkhart "blames himself for the accidental touching, but the prosecutor has not proved beyond a reasonable doubt" that all elements of the indictment necessary for conviction had been satisfied.
Schierloh said he was prepared to head straight to sentencing after delivering his verdict, but Capache asked for additional time to gather statements in support of his client.
Burkhart's sex offender registration status will be determined at the time of sentencing.