Ex-coach gets 7 years in rape of teenager
NEWARK — A former youth sports coach was sentenced to seven years in prison Wednesday for raping a girl at his Thornville home.
Gary Stratford, 37, also was classified as a sex offender and will have to complete registration and other requirements for the rest of his life after pleading guilty to two counts of felony rape in the late September incident.
“You were the one person I trusted most,” the 14-year-old victim, who was in court for the proceedings before Judge David Branstool, wrote in a statement read before the sentencing.
According to court documents, Stratford provided the youth with alcohol, then requested that she sleep in bed with him, where he digitally penetrated her. She left the room and went to the kitchen of the home but was urged back to bed, where Stratford repeated the crime.
Stratford cried and wiped his eyes with a handkerchief as he faced the more than a dozen people who attended his hearing and apologized.
“I take full responsibility for what I’ve done,” he said.
Stratford is a former youth-league baseball coach who was hired in September as an eighthgrade football coach at Lakewood Middle School in Hebron. He resigned from the position about a week after being charged with rape, according to Lakewood school board meeting minutes.
The victim in the case was not associated with the teams.