Willard pleads guilty to raping child

November 21, 2013

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Editor’s Note: The following story discusses a trial involving criminal sexual conduct against a child. As a policy, we do not post names of the victim of sexual crimes nor will we post the names of family members. This story may contain graphic elements that some readers are not comfortable with. If you are not comfortable with such subject matter we would suggest you do not read any further.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — The 19-year-old Manistee man who raped a 9-year-old boy earlier this year pleaded guilty this morning in 51st Circuit Court, accepting a plea from the prosecutor’s office. Today would have been the second day of a jury trial for Dalton Willard.

Willard accepted a plea that he committed criminal sexual conduct first degree against a Grant Township boy.

As part of the plea, Willard will accept a sentence of 25 to 35 years in prison for the CSC charge and also 9 to 35 years in prison, concurrent, for kidnapping. Upon release, Willard will be on mandatory lifetime electronic tether.

While crying, Willard told the court that he lured the boy into a house at 266 W. Hoague Road, asking him to identify a dog. The dog did not exist. Willard kept the boy from leaving the house and then brought him into the basement where he violated the boy.

Willard said after the act he said he was sorry and let the victim go. He then left shortly afterwards.

Willard will be sentenced on Jan. 14, 2014 at 2 p.m.

Judge Richard Cooper praised the victim and his parents for the way they handled themselves throughout the entire ordeal.

“(The victim) and his family handled themselves with a high degree of dignity. I don’t know how you would react if this happened to your own youngster were abused,” Cooper said to the jury afterwards, “but this family has shown very strong character while working on this case.”

Assistant Prosecutor Glenn Jackson III said he was very satisfied with today’s outcome.

“I wasn’t going to take anything less than him pleaded to both counts,” Jackson said. “I can’t say enough about how the victim and his family handled this. This young man (the 9-year-old victim) had to come to court four times and testify. He was right on each time.

“It was good to hear the defendant tell us what the investigators and witnesses have pieced together this entire time.”

Jackson praised the professionalism of the detectives and deputies of the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.

“I can’t say enough about these guys,” Jackson said after court, standing with Det. Sgt. Tom Posma and Det. Mike Kenney. “They were able to piece together a lot of the elements that gave us proof to put Mr. Willard away.” Jackson said that Dep. Derrek Wilson meticulously photographed the LaSalle Road house. “Had he testified today, Dep. Wilson would have shown through photographs how detailed the victim was about his description of the house. All of the deputies involved in this case just did a lot of extra work.”

Jackson said what made this case stand out was that it was an act of random violence.

“We don’t get a lot of random violence in Mason County and these cases are difficult for all of us.”

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