Former sheriff's deputy sentenced in sexual abuse case<BR>

A former Mohave County sheriff's deputy from Golden Valley was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison Thursday for sexually abusing his former stepdaughter beginning in 1993.

Superior Court Judge Steven Conn also sentenced Fred Sherwood Hodges to lifetime probation following his release from prison on charges of downloading child pornography onto his computer from the Internet from 1998 to last year.

Conn also ordered the ex-deputy never to return to the county upon his release.

Hodges, 49, a law enforcement officer for 20 years, pleaded guilty Nov.

8 to seven counts of sexual abuse and three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

The sexual abuse incidents took place at a residence in Wikieup where Hodges was stationed, records show.

The incidents stem back to 1993 when his stepdaughter was then 17 and continued until late 1996.

Three additional counts of sex abuse were dismissed under Hodges' plea agreement, which showed sexual abuses dating back even further to 1991, records show.

Prior to the sentencing, Hodges' attorney Lee Novak put a Kingman pastor as well as Hodges' current employer on the stand on Hodges behalf.

Deputy County Attorney Dennis McGrane in cross examining Hodges' employer, Kitty Long, owner of a local construction company, asked how she would feel if Hodges molested her daughter.

"That would make me feel bad," she admitted.

But she quickly added that her children never had a problem with Hodges since he started working for her in the summer of 1999 and that he expressed remorse for what he did.

McGrane then put Hodges ex-wife, Debra Hodges, on the stand telling of the hardships her daughter, now 24, faces as a result of the abuses.

"She's a mess right now," Mrs.

Hodges said.

"She's just a mess.

She hasn't been able to function very well.

She's on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

I want to be able to go to the store and not have to look for his truck.

I just want him to be gone."

Mrs.

Hodges would not comment afterwards about the sentencing.

In June 1999, she called the sheriff's office accusing Hodges of molesting her daughter.

Because Hodges was a sheriff's deputy, the investigation was handled by the Kingman Police Department.

At the time of his arrest, Hodges resigned as a deputy, records show.

Novak asked Conn not to use Hodges' employment as a sheriff's deputy as a factor for a tougher sentence.

Conn agreed in his sentencing of Hodges saying, "It's not something you (Hodges) did in your position as a police officer.

It's something you did as a parent."

Hodges could have been sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison.

"I feel good about the sentence," Novak said afterwards.

"I thought it was very appropriate under the circumstances.

I didn't think being a sheriff's deputy would be a factor."

The sexual exploitation charges began in 1998 through to the summer of last year.

Hodges was arrested for those charges in November 1999 at his home in Golden Valley.

Hodges served 47 days in jail after being arrested on that charge, records show.

Pornographic images of minors under the age of 15 were recovered by sheriff's detectives from Hodges' computer.

The images, believed to be downloaded from the Internet, had been deleted, records show.

Experts can estimate the age of a minor in computer images using the Tanner Scale.

The scale, named after a British doctor, estimates the chronological age of a child for use in sex abuse cases, records show.