Oak Hill area resident Shawn Blackburn (center) enters the Jackson County Common Pleas courtroom during his recent trial for rape and other charges. On Thursday afternoon, Blackburn was sentenced to a life sentence with the chance for parole after 24-½ years. (Telegram Photo By Pete Wilson)

Oak Hill area resident Shawn Blackburn (center) enters the Jackson County Common Pleas courtroom during his recent trial for rape and other charges. On Thursday afternoon, Blackburn was sentenced to a life sentence with the chance for parole after 24-½ years. (Telegram Photo By Pete Wilson)

A sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 24 and one-half years was handed down to convicted rapist Shawn Blackburn, age 52, of Oak Hill, this week by Jackson County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Regan.

Blackburn was originally charged with one count of rape with a sexual predator specification, two counts of gross sexual imposition, two counts of kidnapping, one count of obstructing justice, and one count of obstructing official business. The charges stem from Blackburn's alleged crimes involving a single severely autistic female victim which occurred in different periods covering dates in 2015 and 2016. When the trial ended on May 22, the jury found Blackburn guilty of all counts expect for one of the kidnapping charges.

During the sentencing hearing held Thursday afternoon, June 21, both the State, represented by Angie Canepa of the Ohio Attorney General's Office, and the defense, represented by attorneys Gene Meadows and Justin Skaggs, were given the opportunity to provide statements before the judgement was given.

For the State, Canepa requested the court impose the maximum sentences for the crimes and for those sentences to run consecutively. She said the victim in this case, who functions below a two-year-old level and cannot speak, did nothing to provoke or induce the offense and suffered greatly as a result. Blackburn, the adult female victim and the female's mother all three lived together at the same residence when the alleged crimes occurred.

"Certainly there were mental injuries suffered by her due to her mental condition and she undoubtedly suffered psychological harm just as anyone depending on one of their care providers would," Canepa said.

Further, she stated that Blackburn used his relationship with the victim and/or her mother to facilitate the offense. Canepa also pointed to testimony given by Blackburn's niece who testified that he committed similar crimes against her when she was just 12 years of age. This, Canepa said, coupled with the fact that Blackburn has a prior criminal record as well as a "lifelong pattern of alcohol abuse," suggests the likelihood of recidivism.

"Most importantly, Your Honor, he has not shown any remorse," Canepa stated. "He did the opposite of taking responsibility for these offenses."

During comments from the defense, Meadows asked the court to consider what he described as an issue with credibility with regard to the testimony given by the victim's mother. As for Canepa's comments regarding Blackburn's lack of remorse, Meadows explained why that was so.

"Mr. Blackburn has maintained his innocence through this entire process," he said. "He's not going to show remorse because he believes he didn't do anything."

Meadows also requested the court use its discretion to grant concurrent sentences rather than consecutive. Though he was given the opportunity, Blackburn did not make any comments of his own.

When the time came for the sentence to be delivered, Judge Regan stated that none of the factors to consider that would make this crime less serious apply.

"The court finds that the harm is so great that a single term does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the conduct," Judge Regan said.

Ultimately, Blackburn was given the maximum penalties for each of his crimes. For count one (rape) he was sentenced to 11 years to life in prison, for count three (gross sexual imposition) he was sentenced to 18 months, for count five (kidnapping) he was sentenced to 11 years, and for count six (obstructing justice) he was sentenced to 12 months. Judge Regan stated these sentences will run consecutively, Blackburn will be registered as a Tier Three sex offender and will not be eligible for intensive prison programs.

Following delivery of the sentence, Meadows stated that he will be filing an appeal of Blackburn's behalf.

The following comment was provided via a press release from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine: "The defendant preyed on this vulnerable victim because she could not resist or even object to what was happening to her," said Attorney General DeWine. "I will continue to stand up for people with disabilities and make certain that predators are held accountable."