Exline sentenced to 75 years in prison

Judge calls crimes were “as serious as any crime you can possibly commit

James Exline, 47, was sentenced in Greene County district court Monday to a total of 75 years in prison for the sex abuse of his daughter Paige Exline. Judge James Drew, who presided over the jury trial in Waverly in June in which he was found guilty of sex abuse- second degree and sex abuse- third degree, sentenced Exline to a time not to exceed 50 years in prison on the first charge and a time not to exceed 25 years on the second charge. The sentences are consecutive.

The charges carry mandatory sentences; the judge’s only discretion is whether the sentences are concurrent or consecutive. Exline’s attorney, Daniel Gonnerman of Carroll, argued for concurrent sentences, saying the reason there were two different charges was Paige’s age at the time of the abuse, but that it was all one chain of events.

“What happened to her is something no child should have to go through,” said assistant attorney general Denise Timmons while arguing for consecutive sentences. “What happened to her affected not only her, but her classmates, the rest of her family, this community. I think, most importantly, he’s a two-time sex offender. He was going through sex offender treatment and on lifetime parole, and he still chose to commit these acts against his own daughter. He does not deserve any more chances.”

Judge Drew during sentencing said the case was one in which “there’s just no figuring this kind of thing out.”

“Consider the fact that before you started to commit these crimes, you had reason to believe Paige was being abused by another family member. When you took steps to address that, then you began to commit the same crimes. This was not an isolated incident. It happened over a period of time,” he said.

“You were already a convicted sex offender on lifetime parole. Even more troubling than that, you did this to your own daughter…. I consider you to be extremely dangerous. I consider these crimes to be as serious as any crime you can possibly commit,” Judge Drew said.

Exline was remanded to Oakdale Medical and Classification Center. There will be no bond should he appeal the sentence. He must serve 85 percent of the sentences before he is eligible for parole.

He was fined $1,000 with a $350 surcharge and a $100 sex abuse surcharge on the sex abuse- third degree charge.

Assistant county attorney Thomas Laehn assisted Timmons in prosecuting the case.

Before sentencing, Judge Drew first heard a motion not to sentence Exline but to hold a new trial, instead. Attorney Gonnerman cited hearsay evidence and questions about the relevance of a DHS social worker’s testimony as cause for a new trial, arguing  that the evidence presented did not support the jury’s finding of guilt.

Judge Drew, who also presided over that trial, denied the motion, finding that weight of the evidence against Exline supported the verdict. He said there was “overwhelming” evidence of guilt.

Paige Exline, 12, and her cousin Shakiah Cockerham, 16, were living with their grandmother Shirley Exline in Guthrie Center when they were killed in a house fire May 15, 2017. Paige’s brother Noah had been charged with committing sex abuse against Paige, and her father was to be charged with sex abuse, also against Paige, the next week. Patrick Thompson, James Exline’s stepson, is charged with two counts of first degree murder in connection with the fire.

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