SOMERVILLE – A transgender woman was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison for forcing the 7-year-old daughter she fathered to participate in child pornography.
Marina Volz, 32, of Franklin, was sentenced, along with three others, by Superior Court Judge Peter Tober for their roles in running a child pornography production company in their Coburn Lane home in Franklin Township.
Also sentenced Friday were Ashley D. Romero, 28, formerly known as Adam Romero, Sean Allen, 54, and Dulcinea Gnecco, 21.
Assistant Somerset County Prosecutor Brian Stack told the judge that the quartet was a "vortex of darkness" that "snuffed out" the girl who was taken from her mother in Oregon to New Jersey to be in the child pornography.
"They are incapable of redemption," Stack said, adding that it was "difficult to find the words" to describe the crime.
"They're bad people," he said.
The four have not "to this day" accepted full responsibility and have blamed others, he said.
But it's clear from their text messages and other evidence that they were all responsible, he said.
Stack read a letter from the girl's grandmother who said the victim will "never be the person she could have been" because of the crime.
"You all got off lightly," the grandmother wrote.
The girl has since been adopted by relatives and Volz has surrendered all parental rights.
"She will never see her child again," said Anthony Cowell, Volz's public defender.
While not delving into the details of the crime, Tober said it involved neck collars, a cage in the basement, sex toys and other devices.
"If this was not heinous, cruel and depraved, I don't know what is," the judge said.
The judge said the girl was taken across the country "solely for the sexual gratification" of others.
Tober said that it will be years before the full extent of the harm to the girl will be known.
"I can't wrap my head around what happened in this case," Cowell said, adding the evidence was "some of the worst images I have ever seen in my life."
But Cowell said Volz has "taken some responsibility" and "wants to be better."
A report by the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel concluded Volz was not a sexually violent predator, Cowell said.
"She's not a monster," he said. "She's not an animal."
Cowell agreed that the child has "suffered grievously" and it will be years before all the symptoms of the trauma "will come to the surface."
Volz had no criminal record and served in the U.S. Army for three or four years, he said.
Tober said Volz suffered sex abuse as a child and has mental health issues, including several suicide attempts.
All four pleaded guilty on Nov. 21 as part of a plea agreement with the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office. They will receive more than 1,000 days of credit for the time they have been in the Somerset County Jail since their arrests in May 2019.
Volz was sentenced on charges of human trafficking, aggravated sexual assault, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child. She will serve the quarter of a century without being eligible for parole.
She faced a potential life sentence, Cowell said.
Romero, whom the grandmother in her letter called "evil," was sentenced to 25 years without parole on also charges of human trafficking, aggravated sexual assault, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child.
Romero admitted that she assisted Volz in bringing Volz’s child to New Jersey with the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with the child, and sexually assaulted the child jointly with Volz and filmed the sexual assault.
"There is hope for her," said Charles Uliano, Romero's lawyer, adding that she "realizes what she did she should be punished for.
"She has her head on the right way for redemption," he said. "There is hope for her."
Tober said Romero had a "good childhood," attended Brooklyn College and Cornell University but did not graduate, worked as a phot
Allen, a U.S. Navy veteran, was sentenced to 12 years in prison with no eligibility of parole for 10 years and two months, on charges of human trafficking, conspiracy, aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. Allen admitted that he helped Volz and Romero in bringing the girl to New Jersey.
Gnecco received the lightest sentence because she was "the cook and bottle washer" in the home and cared for the girl, her lawyer Jack Venturi said. She pleaded guilty to counts of endangering the welfare of a child and admitted she filmed the girl while she was partially naked.
Volz, Romero and Allen operated what they described as a “family-owned transgender pornography production studio specializing in amateur, BDSM and taboo fetish content” from the residence.
Romero and Allen jointly sexually assaulted the child and filmed the assault, the video of which was recovered from multiple electronic items within the home. The search of the electronic devices revealed multiple text messages and other electronic communications among Volz, Romero, Allen and third parties discussing the sexual assault of the child.
Police also recovered firearms, a high-capacity ammunition magazine and cocaine from the residence
In January 2019, the prosecutor's office received a referral from the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency that the child was living in the home with Volz, and roommates were allegedly creating pornography,
A search warrant was executed and found the child living in the home where a pornography production company was being operated, and the child had been exposed to sexually explicit matter.
Electronic items, including cellphones and computers, were confiscated from the home for forensic examination, and the child was removed from the home by the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
Several sexually explicit photos and videos of the 7-year-old victim were found during the examination and analysis of the electronic devices.
Mike Deak is a reporter for mycentraljersey.com. To get unlimited access to his articles on Somerset and Hunterdon counties, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: NJ woman who forced daughter she fathered into child porn sentenced