DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – An ex-car salesman from Michigan who spent hours upon hours at his home computer cajoling and even berating seven mothers to engage in sex acts with their young children was ordered by a federal judge to spend the rest of his life in prison.
But the judge, a U.S. Attorney, an aunt of two of the victims and even the defendant acknowledged Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit that many lives already have been devastated by Steven Demink’s actions.
“You are like a pebble tossed into a pond; the effects of your actions will not only ripple into the lives of my sister and her two children, but their children as well,” said the sister of a mother charged in Indiana with molestation. “When I think of the sheer horror, fear and confusion they felt in their home that day, it makes me sick.”
Demink pleaded guilty five months ago to six charges related to sexual exploitation.
U.S. Attorney Kevin Mulcahy argued for a life sentence. Demink, of Redford Township just west of Detroit, told Judge Gerald Rosen he could be rehabilitated.
“I’m not unsalvageable,” the 41-year-old Demink said. “I still think I can be a productive member of society without the court worried about me re-offending. I did not think of what consequences my actions were going to produce. I hope they can find it in their hearts one day to forgive me for what I have done. I need help and I want help.”
Rosen was not convinced.
“When I look at the devastation that has been reaped in so many lives, I have to conclude that this is a case that justifies a life sentence,” Rosen said.
Authorities accused Demink of trolling around the dating website, singleparentmeet.com prior to April 2009 as Dalton St. Clair.
With a fake profile photo and a contrived background, Demink chatted with hundreds of women, sometimes posing as a psychologist, according to the government’s sentencing memorandum.
“Most ignored or chastised Demink when he sought nude pictures of children,” the memorandum stated. “But a persistent Demink found at least … seven women who succumbed to his desires.”
For more than a year and through online chats, Demink as St. Clair, persuaded the women to sexually assault their children who ranged in age from three to 15.
One of the victims was autistic. Another, a female friend of a daughter of one of the women, had a past history of being sexually abused.
The women were told the sex acts were a form of therapy for their children. Marriage was even tossed up as a possibility to some if they complied with him.
Images of the sex acts were sent to him via email or through a live web stream.
“These women are not victims. They certainly were manipulated by this man,” Mulcahy said Wednesday. “He is a man unique … the ability he has to manipulate people and get what he wants. He was the puppet master. Those mothers were his puppets.”
Authorities were alerted to the abuse in December 2009 when a 5-year-old boy in Idaho told his grandmother about his mother’s actions.
The mother was sentenced in May 2010 to seven to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting her son and 3-year-old daughter.
“My children have been taken from me and my parental rights terminated,” she wrote in a letter to the government. “I knew what he was asking of me was wrong and I hated doing it, but I wanted him to like me. I did what he asked because I wanted to please him.”
The other six women also have been charged or indicted, and a second has been sentenced to prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.