Man sentenced for molesting girls: How long will he serve?

A Bethel Village man who admitted molesting two young girls — each over a time span of about seven years — has been sentenced to 28 years in prison, the maximum allowed by law.

John Lee Zook, 56, who had lived just outside of Columbus until he was jailed in December, will serve up to 18 years in prison followed by 10 years on probation as a registered sex offender, Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann ruled.

During a three-hour sentencing hearing Thursday, prepared statements written by both victims were read in court, including one from a woman now in her early 20s who Zook admitted repeatedly molesting starting when she was 6 through age 13.

“I am ashamed of who I am, of my own body,” the woman wrote. “I was mocked and betrayed in the worst way. I feel unloved and abandoned by God.”

Court records indicate that when molestation of the older victim stopped in 2005, it began on the younger one.

Still a minor, the second victim was not at Thursday’s hearing. However, her statement was read in court by victim witness coordinator Crys McInerney of the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s office.

With experiences almost identical to the older female for the same length of time, the younger victim stated she must remain in therapy to cope with depression and suicidal thoughts, McInerney said while reading the statement.

Seven years of being repeatedly touched inappropriately also left the younger victim with thoughts of molesting children herself, which is a part of her ongoing therapy, the younger victim wrote.

“I don’t want (Zook) out of prison because he’ll just repeat what he did to me to someone else,” she wrote.

After his Dec. 17 arrest, Zook was charged with three counts of molesting, including one as a Class A felony — the state’s most significant level of crime short of murder.

Under those charges, he could have been ordered to serve up to 66 years behind bars as well as pay up to $30,000 in fines.

But March 28, Heimann accepted a plea agreement that allowed Zook to admit his guilt to two counts of child molesting as Class B and Class C felonies.

The defendant’s wife, who is seeking a divorce, also read a prepared statement. She told the judge that while her husband repeatedly told her he was sorry he was going to jail, Zook never said he was sorry for his crimes.

Heimann said Zook did not admit to the molestations for more than a decade until he was accused by both his wife and the older victim.

Zook admitted molesting the older girl to investigators after stating he believed statutes of limitations prevented him from being prosecuted, deputy prosecutor Kathleen Burns said.

The defendant told investigators he began molesting the older girl at age 6 because “she has a laid-back personality, and thought that, on some level, she enjoyed it,” Burns said.

The defendant waited until he was taking a polygraph test during a third police interview before admitting he molested the younger girl, she said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.