Sex offender Melvin T. Lucier heard the word he’s heard three times before in a Scott County courtroom: Guilty.
A Scott County jury deliberated nearly 20 minutes Wednesday before finding the 55-year-old guilty of one count of third-degree sex abuse for abusing a then 12 or 13 year old boy in 2011 or 2012.
More than two hours later, Scott County District Court Judge Joel Barrows sentenced him to up to 25 years in prison, which will be served back-to-back with multiple life sentences for sexually abusing three girls.
Wednesday’s guilty verdict and sentencing close the book on an extensive and exhaustive investigation launched by the Scott County Sheriff's Office into alleged child abuse at Lot 19 at the Patriot Mobile Home Park, 4847 W. Kimberly Road, Davenport, which Lucier shared with James E. Faler, another convicted sex offender.
The sheriff’s office, which led the investigation, also arrested two other sex offenders living in the trailer park and six mothers who prosecutors say allowed their children to spend time alone with Lucier and Faler.
Some of those children were abused.
The boy, now 17, who said he was abused by Lucier told Barrows at Wednesday’s sentencing that his life has been “tremendously affected” by what happened to him. However, the teen said he can move past it.
“Sometimes I lose sleep over it, but all I know is that it’s behind me and I’m happy for myself that I spoke out and saved tons of children,” he said.
After sentencing, Barrows stepped down from the bench, shook the boy’s hand and said, “Good luck to you. I think you’re going to be OK.”
Scott County Attorney Mike Walton said after the hearing that the teenager has “come a long way just in the time we’ve dealt with him.”
“To hear him say that he had a bright future is a cool thing,” Walton said. “You don’t really hear that very often in this business. It’s nice to hear.”
The boy testified Tuesday on the first day of Lucier’s trial that he and his mother and younger siblings spent time with Lucier in his trailer in 2011 and 2012.
The abuse started a couple of weeks after he moved in, he said.
“It went on for a long time.”
The boy said he told his mother about the abuse. She allowed him to go back the next day, he said.
In his closing argument, Walton said the primary evidence in the case was the boy’s testimony.
“How does sex abuse occur?” he asked jurors. “There were two people in that room, Melvin Lucier and (the victim). This was not on video, this was not done in front of other witnesses who can come in and testify. This is a case of a child, a 13-year-old boy who was lured to a trap by pop, candy and video games. Alone.”
Defense attorney Michael Motto argued that an accusation without other evidence is simply not enough to prove his client guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
According to police reports, the investigation began in August 2011, when a Davenport parent came forward to claim that Lucier and Faler sexually abused his three children, ages 2, 4 and 6.
Faler was arrested in May 2013 in Louisville, Ky., after police discovered he was in violation of sex offender registry requirements. Police also discovered sexually explicit of several young boys at the trailer in Davenport.
Lucier was arrested in March 2014. The following month, Scott County Sheriff's deputies led a sweep of the trailer park with help from Davenport police, U.S. Marshals, Iowa Department of Human Services and the Iowa Department of Corrections.
Faler, 50, was sentenced in November in U.S. District Court, Davenport, to five life sentences on five counts of production of child pornography and five consecutive 10-year sentences for committing the offenses while being required to register as a sex offender.
The two other sex offenders and five of the women charged through the investigation have all pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison.
The case against the sixth woman was dismissed in February after three psychologists determined that she was unfit to stand trial and that competency likely could not be restored.
Walton called these cases “the most horrendous that I’ve been involved in as far as the number of victims, damage done.”
“It’s our hope that he will never be around children again,” Walton said of Lucier. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Scott County Sheriff’s Lt. Bryce Schmidt said the case has been the largest and most unique sex abuse case he’s ever had.
“We do see sex offenders that reside together; that’s not that uncommon,” he said. “It’s uncommon that you have sex offenders that reside together that are active in sharing victims and making that such a big part of their lives. They had this ongoing crime spree going.”
What’s also unique, Schmidt said, is that so many mothers, along with their children, were pulled into the case.
Lucier and Faler “groomed them, schmoozed them and made them feel good about themselves,” Schmidt said.
“These women knew they were sex offenders,” he said. “They just were willing to overlook that because the money and everything else these guys were offering them.”
In 2010, the Quad-City Times reported that 18 registered sex offenders gave their address as the trailer park, one of the few rental places in the county that is at least 2,000 feet from any school or day care, which means it complies with state law as an eligible place for certain sex offenders to live.
Walton said Wednesday that as a prosecutor, “the 2,000-foot rule does not realistically address the problem” of preventing child sex abuse.
In the Patriot Mobile Home Park cases, however, the residency restriction did not play into the case a great deal.
“These guys were going to find these women, regardless,” he said. “I don’t think it had anything to do with the fact that they were in the same trailer park because they found some of the victims before they lived there.”