IOWA CITY (AP) — Roger Bentley, the registered sex offender who was convicted in the abduction and brutal slaying of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage, was sentenced Friday to life in prison.
District Judge Patrick Grady called Bentley’s crime the most despicable he’s seen in his legal career, and ordered the two mandatory life sentences for kidnapping and first-degree murder be served consecutively.
Bentley, 38, of Brandon, was convicted last month of snatching the girl from her home in Cedar Rapids and driving her to a deserted mobile home outside where she was sexually molested, beaten and suffocated.
It took a Scott County jury only two hours to find Bentley guilty of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping on Jan. 31. The trial was moved from Johnson County to Scott County District Court because on a change of venue because of extensive pre-trial publicity.
The crime has had an impact statewide unlike any other in recent history, leading lawmakers to pass tougher penalties for sex offenders and reinvigorating debate about the death penalty, abolished by lawmakers more than 40 years ago.
“I find it very difficult to express the level of fear, loathing, horror, disgust and shame in the statements and testimony about the inhuman acts against this little girl,” Grady said. “In more than a quarter century in my career as a lawyer and a judge, I find it hard to find any series of acts that were so deliberate and so cruel.”
Bentley showed no emotion during his sentencing in Johnson County District Court. He also declined an opportunity to address the court and members of the Gage family, who filled two rows of benches in the courtroom.
But Jetseta’s mother, Trena Gage, said the crime and loss of her daughter has taken a significant emotional toll on her entire family. Shortly after the abduction, state officials placed Trena Gage’s other two children, Ian and Leonna, in foster care.
Her statements marked her first public comments on the case in nearly a year.
“What Roger Bentley did to my daughter … and my family was very horrendous. I would not wish this on my worst enemy,” said Trena Gage, who paused several times to control her emotions.
She did not look at Bentley as she read her prepared remarks.
“I wake up every single day thinking about the horrible things that Roger Bentley did to Jetseta and it sickens me. No child deserves to go through what Jetseta went through,” she said.
Afterward, Trena Gage told reporters that life in prison is not a big enough price to pay for anyone convicted of committing such dreadful crimes against children.
“Any person who kidnaps, rapes and murders should be given the death penalty,” she told reporters.
Jetseta Gage was reported missing the evening of March 24 and within hours police issued a statewide Amber Alert.
Police, acting on a tip, found Bentley the following morning at the run-down mobile home with blood stains on his clothes. Investigators later discovered the girl’s body in a bathroom cabinet inside the trailer. Her feet and arms were bound and a plastic bag was taped over her head.
During trial, Johnson County Attorney J. Patrick White used DNA evidence and witness testimony to link Bentley to the crime.
The trial was moved to Scott County because of pretrial publicity, and a jury deliberated for two hours before finding Bentley guilty.
Bentley’s sentencing is not the end of the ordeal for the Gage family.
Next month, Bentley’s younger brother, James, 34, is scheduled to go on trial in Osceola on charges he sexually abused Jetseta Gage during a three year period.