CLEVELAND — A man is heading to prison for 35 years for going after little girls in the middle of the night in their own homes.
Justin Christian struck a plea deal with Cuyahoga County orosecutors. Investigators say he kidnapped a 6-year-old girl from a home in Cleveland and sexually assaulted her. Plus, he tried to steal a 10-year-old girl from a home in Elyria right out of her own bedroom.
Christian barely spoke above a whisper pleading guilty. But families of the victims stood up to explain how he had hurt the children and changed lives forever.
The mother of the 6-year-old said, “It’s a reminder there are monsters in this world, and no one is safe even in your own home.” She added, “Yes, I have agreed to a plea deal, not so that I can help you, but for my three daughters, so that they don’t have to come in to look in the devil’s eyes.”
And the grandmother of the 10-year-said, “This is something that happens in the movies, not in real life. It is a parent’s worst nightmare.”
In court, Justin Christian didn’t apologize. The judge gave him a chance, but he didn’t explain himself. No one spoke for him. But leaving court, we caught up with one of his brothers.
Jimmy Christian apologized to everyone on behalf of his family. He wanted to believe his brother was innocent. And he told him to go to trial. But he says Justin Christian wanted to plead guilty, and he hung up on a jailhouse phone call.
Jimmy Christian said, “He’s a smart guy. He probably knows that he doesn’t belong on the street. He knows you can’t go around snatching kids up. He told me he was gonna plea out. He hung up on me, and I haven’t talked to him since.”
Investigators struggled to crack the case. They had surveillance video and only a few clues. Finally, they solved the mystery using a new, groundbreaking technique with DNA. A long list of federal, state, and local agencies worked together to get justice.
Judge Nancy Russo told Christian, “You were cruel and heartless to those children.” The judge went along with the plea deal and the 35-year sentence, in part, because Christian pleaded guilty.
Meantime, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said the investigation isn’t finished. Detectives are still looking at whether this same man might be to blame for more crimes.