BROOKSVILLE — It took more than 2 ½ years for George Hendricks to confess in a courtroom what he had done.
The 44-year-old Brooksville man, authorities say, raped and impregnated a teenage girl during a three-month period around the end of 2008. As jury selection for his trial began Monday, Hendricks still maintained his innocence. Tuesday, attorneys presented their opening arguments.
Minutes later, the hulking, 6-foot-3 defendant changed his mind, admitted his guilt and agreed to a deal that will brand him a sexual predator and send him to prison for 6 ½ years.
Convicted of sexual battery on a child between the ages of 12 and 16, Hendricks will also face five years of probation upon his release. The defendant could have been sentenced to life in prison had he not taken the deal.
Prosecutor Bill Catto said he had a good case against Hendricks, but the man's teenage victim would have had to testify at trial. The victim's family and Hernando sheriff's detectives who worked the case, Catto said, supported the agreement to spare the girl from taking the stand.
"I don't know what it's like to be in her shoes," he said. "She had finally started to put this away, and then having to testify again, maybe that revictimizes her."
At the time of the rape, authorities say, the girl lived with Hendricks. Soon, she became pregnant. Hendricks told her that if she had sex with him at least three times a day in a certain position, it would end her pregnancy.
When that failed, investigators said, Hendricks took her to Jacksonville for an abortion.
Hernando deputies arrested Hendricks after the girl told detectives that she had been sexually abused over the course of three months. Hendricks was originally charged with 35 counts of capital sexual battery.
John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.