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Foster parent sentenced for raping girls

A Central Point man has been sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison for raping and sexually abusing three girls who were in his care — including one who was 11 when he began raping her.

Samuel Joseph Hicks, 54, of the 4400 block of Central Point was scheduled to be taken into custody today for transport to prison after pleading guilty this morning to two counts of second-degree rape and one count of second-degree sexual abuse involving two girls.

He also entered a no contest plea to third-degree sexual abuse against a third girl.

Hicks was running a therapeutic foster home when the abuse occurred between June 2012 and June 2014, according to court testimony and documents.

The abuse came to light when one of the victims told a friend Hicks had sex with her without wearing a condom and she feared she would get pregnant, said Jackson County Senior Deputy District Attorney Terry Smith-Norton.

Hicks was arrested in October 2014.

Investigators interviewed other girls and learned of additional sexual abuse.

Hicks told investigators he couldn't have raped the girls because he was impotent, but his doctor said there was no medical reason for him to be impotent. Hicks also tried to blame one of the girls, saying she had come on to him, Smith-Norton said.

"This case is particularly egregious because he ran a therapeutic foster home," Smith-Norton said. "All of the children who came to him had experienced bad things and trauma."

In a letter read aloud in court, one of the victims said she was 11 years old at the time. She said Hicks raped her more than two dozen times in a nine-month span.

The girl said she would stay awake at night because she was afraid Hicks would come in and rape her, and he often did.

"There was no safe place for me to hide," she wrote, adding Hicks had stolen her virginity, childhood and innocence.

But the victim said she was happy she had disclosed the abuse so Hicks could no longer hurt other girls.

Defense attorney Jeni Feinberg said Hicks had no prior criminal history.

Feinberg said he suffered from a neurological problem that caused his behavior and personality to change in 2008. She said when she first met him, his neurological problem was so severe she thought he might have dementia.

"He's now able to recognize what he did," Feinberg said.

However, the 11-year-old victim said in her letter that Hicks had to carefully plan out the rapes to avoid getting caught because his wife and other kids were in the foster home.

The two other victims were 15 at the time of the sexual abuse.

One wrote a letter saying she had been assured she would be safe at the foster home. She said it was frightening that an adult who was supposed to be taking care of kids was instead abusing them.

"I was vulnerable and had no way to get help," she wrote.

A grandmother of one of the victims said Hicks abused his position of authority to repeatedly rape girls. She praised her granddaughter for disclosing the abuse.

"My granddaughter is a very brave young lady," the grandmother said.

The grandmother said her granddaughter must still learn to love herself again and still suffers from terrible nightmares.

Before sentencing Hicks to prison, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia said he believes Hicks knew what he was doing despite his neurological condition. Mejia called the case deeply troubling.

"It shocks the conscience of the community that these victims came to you through the foster care system," Mejia said.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.