An Astoria man was sentenced Tuesday to 42 years in prison for charges related to child molestation.

Following a four-day trial, jurors found Larry Dean Leach, 48, guilty on four counts of rape in the first degree, four counts of sexual abuse in the first degree and two counts of using a child in display of sexually explicit conduct.

Leach was indicted on the charges in April 2018.

Leach worked as a shipwright and frequently traveled around the country to work on different jobs. While working in Astoria, he became friends with the victim’s family. The children referred to him as “Papa Larry.”

During the trial, the prosecution detailed a history of abuse and rape that started when the victim, who is now 12, was 7 years old.

During her testimony, the victim said she decided to tell her grandmother what was happening because she “didn’t want to be afraid anymore.”

Astoria police officer Kenny Hansen and Warrenton Detective Tyler Johnston spent several months investigating the case.

“It was a particularly difficult case to investigate, these always are. It was important that the jury saw what (she) went through,” Johnston said.

Leach pleaded his innocence throughout the trial and during sentencing.

“I’m just very happy to see the jury see through his pile of lies because it was so extensive. He lied from the time he got up there to the time he got off,” District Attorney Ron Brown, who handed the case, said after the jurors deliberated.

Brown called the victim a hero.

“You can’t do anything really worse to a child than what the defendant did in this case,” Brown said prior to Leach being sentenced. “Rape of a child is as low as it comes. (The victim) has to live with this her whole life and as the court knows, she’s doing a great job now and I think she’s going to do a great job forever, but she’s going to have to be dealing with issues that were thrust upon her by the defendant.”

Retired Clatsop County Courthouse Judge Paula Brownhill presided over the case.

“Well, Mr. Leach, you had a pretty good plan,” Brownhill said prior to sentencing Leach.

“You found this family that didn’t have a lot of money and you integrated yourself into this family in a number of ways, by buying them gifts and paying their bills and remodeling the house that they were living in ... It was a good plan as long as (the victim) was young enough to do your bidding without revealing what you were actually doing. But the problem is you chose the wrong victim. You chose (a victim) who is smart, brave and confident. And she told on you. It took a while, but eventually, she did what she needed to do to protect herself, to protect her sisters, to protect their cousins and to protect every other little girl within your grasp.”

Brownhill told Leach he is a dangerous pedophile and believes he will continue to seek young girls if he has the opportunity.

“Mr. Leach did make my life miserable, very miserable for four years of my life,” the victim said before Leach was sentenced.

“I felt different than everyone else because he was doing those things to me. I didn’t feel normal and I just wonder some nights, why me? ... I was so afraid of him. Yes, I was scared of what he would do if I told. Yes, my teachers taught us about what to do if someone had been doing that. But when you’re in a real situation, it’s very hard to come out about a very stressful and scary thing.

“I fought because I believed I could do it, I fought for my rights. No one deserved to go through what I had to at all.”

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.

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