A 55-year-old South Carolina man will spend 13 years in prison for raping his underage stepdaughter while living in Mahoning County.
The victim, who is now 34 years old, told authorities she reported the ongoing sexual assaults to a local priest when she was 15, but the priest failed to report the abuse to police.
She said she recently came to authorities with the rape allegations to save other children from harm.
Michael Parent, 55, of Myrtle Beach, appeared Wednesday before Judge Lou A. D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court and pleaded guilty to 13 counts of raping his stepdaughter between 1984 and 1996. The rapes began when the girl was 5 and did not end until she was almost 18.
The charges could have landed Parent in prison for more than 130 years, but Natasha Frenchko, an assistant county prosecutor, and Atty. Al Palombaro, representing Parent, reached an agreed-upon sentencing recommendation of 13 years on the charges. Parent will also have to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life once released from prison.
Frenchko said Parent sexually abused and manipulated the young girl for years before she went to the Rev. Michael Seifert for help. Father Seifert, who has since been transferred out of the Youngstown area, did not report the matter to police.
“She was 15 and went to him for help, and he did not report this to anyone, so for an additional two years she was abused,” Frenchko said. “She suffered the abuse silently because the only person she told did not do anything to help her.”
Frenchko said the state was planning to call Father Seifert as a witness in the case had the matter gone to trial.
Father Seifert was out of the office Wednesday and was unavailable for comment.
The Rev. John Jerek, the vicar for clergy and religious services for the Diocese of Youngstown, said he is not familiar with the case in which Father Seifert is mentioned, but he did say any priest in a counseling situation would be obligated to report such a revelation to authorities.
Father Jerek said different rules apply in a confession, but a confession would not be the appropriate setting for such a revelation.
The victim made a tearful statement to the court, saying she has come forward because she wants to protect other children from Parent.
“He knows what acts he did to me and the manipulation involved. ... He should not be around children. I am currently going to counseling for this, and other children need to be protected. That is what makes me feel better about going forward with this,” she said.
Parent said little during the hearing, but did apologize.
“I am sorry, and I just can’t say that enough,” he said.
Parent will serve the 13-year prison sentence in Ohio, but prosecutors here said he may be under investigation for similar activities in another state.