Woman sentenced to 35 years for raping child
WOODSTOCK – The second of two co-defendants convicted of child rape was sentenced Wednesday in Shenandoah County Circuit Court to 35 years in a case involving an 8-year-old victim.
Tina Hillsman, 36, formerly of New Market, received the same sentence from Judge Dennis L. Hupp that he imposed earlier this month on Robert Lee Good, 50, on charges stemming from the same incident.
Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola asked for a life sentence in both cases while Hillsman’s attorney, Varinder Dhillon of Harrisonburg, asked for something in the lower end of the state sentencing guideline range, which begins at five years and eight months.
Witnesses for Hillsman pleaded for leniency and spoke of a dramatic turnaround in her life since the crime was committed and the initial case, later dropped, was filed against her in 2011.
Hillsman pleaded guilty in September to raping an 8-year-old boy and committing two related offenses with the victim. She and Good, also a former New Market resident, were initially charged with a total of 17 offenses linked to their actions at a motel in the town in 2008.
Hillsman and Good had sex in front of the boy and Hillsman later had sex with the boy. Hillsman insisted that Good forced her into having sex with the victim, a contention that Hupp rejected, although he acknowledged that Hillsman may have felt coerced “in that that she was economically dependent” upon Good.
Campola, who had also asked for a life sentence for Good, said both defendants were blaming each other, but each was responsible for the emotional and psychological damage inflicted on the victim.
“He facilitated it, but she allowed it,” Campola said of Good and Hillsman.
Campola cited statements from the boy’s adopted mother telling of how the victim associates sex with pain as a result of the crimes committed against him.
“It hurts him mentally and scares him that he would hurt someone else,” Campola said, quoting from the victim-impact statement given by the adopted mother.
Bruce Johnson, the pastor of Manor Memorial United Methodist Church in New Market, testified that Hillsman had been closely involved with the church, and he and several other church members were at the hearing to show support for her.
Johnson said Hillsman had gone from a drug-addicted con artist when he first met her to someone who has since been steadily employed, undergone drug treatment and realized the seriousness of the harm she caused her children with her past behavior.
“I’m not trying to call into question anything that’s taken place,” Johnson said of the crimes Hillsman committed, but he added that he had seen her undergo “real transformation.”
But Hupp said he could not justify giving Hillsman a lighter sentence than Good.
“The facts of this case simply go beyond the pale,” Hupp said, adding that he could not “find words to express the disgust that I feel.”
Campola said after the hearing that he was grateful to have had the opportunity to revive the case. Charges against Good and Hillsman were dropped in 2011 after the victim pulled back from earlier statements against them. Years later, the boy spoke to an investigator from the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office after telling a counselor of his fear that Hillsman and Good might commit another sex offense against a child.
“We finally got justice for the victim, or at least closure,” Campola said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org