Woman sentenced on sexual abuse charges

Defense attorney Wells Dillon reads a statement on behalf of his client Lesley Knox during a sentencing hearing Tuesday in Wood County Circuit Court. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — A woman was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in prison for her part in allowing two juvenile family members to be sexually abused by her boyfriend.

Lesley Knox, 35, in custody at the North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County, was sentenced to two terms of 5-15 years in prison to run consecutively, according to Wood County Circuit Judge Jason Wharton during a sentencing hearing on Tuesday. She will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life, once she is released.

Knox pleaded guilty in February to two counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian, both felonies.

According to court records, Knox was arrested in April on a charge of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian. A criminal complaint says that on at least one occasion she and a family member younger than 12 engaged in sexual activity with her boyfriend, Larry Don Hooker, 39, of Parkersburg. It also says that child and two others were forced to watch Knox and Hooker engage in intercourse.

Hooker was sentenced earlier this month to 18 to 53 years in prison on charges of first-degree sexual abuse, second-degree sexual assault and exhibition of obscene matters to minors.

Knox’s defense attorney Wells Dillon read a statement before the sentence was handed down.

”On behalf of Ms. Knox, she would like to apologize (to her children) for bringing Larry Hooker into their lives,” he said. ”For that, she will be forever sorry as well as the horrific acts that these children should have never experienced. Ms. Knox has accepted responsibility.”

Knox has been in jail for 318 days, lost custody of her children as well as “their trust and their respect,” Dillon said, adding she has already paid a significant price for her actions and inactions.

Family members said Knox was depressed and suffering from low self-esteem, which Hooker ended up preying on to get to the family, Dillon said.

He asked for alternative sentencing as Knox has no prior criminal convictions.

Knox addressed everyone in the court and said how sorry she was.

”I am very sorry I ever met Larry Hooker and that he was ever a part of our lives,” she said, sobbing at times. ”I love you (her children) more than anything in this world and I am very sorry for everything we have been through.”

One of Knox’s daughters addressed her as “the person who used to be my mother, my best friend and my go-to.”

She detailed instances where she said her mother did nothing to protect them and seemingly picked Hooker over them.

”You didn’t show us love,” she sobbed. ”A mom doesn’t do that. Why would you not leave or make him stop?”

The daughter said everything in her life has suffered because of what happened.

Another daughter told Knox that she hated her and never wants to see her again.

”You failed to be our mother,” she sobbed. ”You failed to protect us.”

Assistant Wood County Prosecutor Blaire Hudson said Knox took part in the sexual abuse of her children and failed to stop it or leave or do anything.

”That is just not something that a mother does,” she said. ”A mother is someone her children should be able to trust the most.”

Knox indicated Hooker was abusive toward her and she was too scared to do anything, Hudson said. However, Knox never contacted law enforcement or attempted to leave, Hudson said.

Even after Hooker was arrested, Knox remained in contact with him and asked her kids to lie so they could remain together, Hudson said of numerous jail calls, emails and jail visits.

”She took no action to protect (her children) and played an active part in their sexual abuse,” Hudson said in asking the court to deny alternative sentencing.

Wharton agreed as he denied probation and alternative sentencing.

”Of all of the people in the world, you should have been the person protecting them,” Wharton said. ”You not only allowed them to be sexually abused, you actively participated in the sexual abuse of your children.”