Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

Hillsborough judge sentences child sex abuser to 690 years

TAMPA — The oldest victim was 15 when the abuse began; the youngest, just 10.

Their abuser: a 6-foot-3, 215-pound man, who not only molested the boys, not only beat them, not only held them captive until he got what he wanted, but recorded his unspeakable acts on digital video cards.

But to hear Christopher Renshaw's attorney tell it, the 28-year-old convicted pedophile was a victim himself.

"This young man has problems that are not of his own making," attorney Scott McCluskey said. "Judge, punish him. But don't make him die in prison."

For prosecutors, though, this was a case unlike others of its kind, a case that made seasoned investigators cringe.

"Christopher Renshaw did horrible things to these children," said Assistant State Attorney Aaron Hubbard. "I believe he's a monster. I don't believe he deserves to ever be out of prison ever again."

Renshaw, who lived in Valrico until his arrest in 2011, pleaded guilty in August to most of the more than 30 sexual abuse charges against him. On Wednesday, he sat in Judge Chet Tharpe's courtroom clad in an orange jail uniform, his arms shackled.

He rocked in his seat as his three victims spoke of being afraid to be alone, of questioning their sexuality, of flashbacks to what Renshaw made them do. He plugged his ears. Tears streaked his cheeks.

It began in 2009. The three young boys moved into Renshaw's mother's home.

He played video games with them. He drove them to school in the mornings while their mothers worked. After a while, he asked about sex.

"What happened?" Hubbard asked the youngest boy, now 14.

The boy, wearing a white polo shirt and khakis, trembled. He looked at the judge. He looked at his mother. He mumbled something, then croaked out a sob.

"I was made to do things," he said.

One after another, the boys testified. They spit out the lurid details of what Renshaw had done. They cried.

He touched them, they said. He made them touch him. He beat them when they resisted. He threatened them if they told.

Dr. Peter Bursten, a psychologist who testified for the defense, said that Renshaw is considered mentally retarded. He suffered abuse that led to substance abuse and mental health problems.

All of it was part of a vicious and sinister cycle, McCluskey said. Renshaw, from the age of 5, had been sexually abused by his father. And most of his 17 siblings, if not all, suffered the same.

"I would like to have some help," Renshaw said, through sobs. "I'm sorry for the things I've done. I just ask for a chance. Please."

Then, Tharpe spoke.

"If ever there was a person that society needs to be protected from, it's you, Mr. Renshaw," Tharpe said. "I have an intervention for you and it's long and it's called Florida State Prison."

He gave Renshaw the maximum on each count — a consecutive total of 690 years.

As court adjourned, the victims applauded.

Times photographer Skip O'Rourke contributed to this report. Dan Sullivan can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or [email protected]

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