COURT NEWS

Former barber gets 10 years for sexually abusing girls

Posted March 14, 2011, at 12:57 p.m.
Last modified March 14, 2011, at 9:20 p.m.
Donald Denbow
Piscataquis County Sheriff
Donald Denbow
Donald Denbow of Shirley (left) appears at his arraignment beside his defense attorney Richard Hartley on Monday, June 28, 2010 at Dover-Foxcroft District Court.
Donald Denbow of Shirley (left) appears at his arraignment beside his defense attorney Richard Hartley on Monday, June 28, 2010 at Dover-Foxcroft District Court.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A Shirley man who admitted in November that he had sexually abused two young girls hired to clean his former Dover-Foxcroft barbershop was sentenced Monday to serve the next 10 years behind bars.

Donald Denbow, 68, pleaded no contest in November to 13 counts of gross sexual assault  and one count of sexual abuse of a minor. He was sentenced in Piscataquis County Superior Court to 20 years in prison on the first count of gross sexual assault, with all but 10 years suspended. He also was placed on probation for 18 years with the condition that he have no unsupervised contact with children 16 years of age or under and that he get counseling.

Justice William Anderson also sentenced Denbow to 10 years in prison on each of the remaining gross sexual assault offenses, all to be served concurrently. The judge sentenced him to a concurrent 11-month sentence for sexual abuse of a minor.

Denbow, who had a previous sex offense conviction, could have faced a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine on each of the 13 counts of gross sexual assault involving a girl who was 11 when the abuse began and 14 when it ended in 2006. He also could have received up to one year in prison and a fine of $2,000 for the sexual abuse of a minor, which involved another young girl and occurred in 2008.

A sting operation executed by Detective Scott Arno of the Dover-Foxcroft Police Department last year resulted in Denbow’s arrest.  After the girls reported to police what had occurred, Arno had one of the victims call Denbow, who also operated a barbershop in Greenville, to arrange to have a sexual encounter, a call that was taped.

The two victims testified at the sentencing hearing Monday.

‘’I was sad and angry at myself for being weak and felt that I should have been stronger. I blamed myself for what happened,’’ one of the teenagers said tearfully.  ‘’I was also very angry and confused about how Mr. Denbow could have manipulated me to do things and have me think it was my fault.’’

She said she took comfort in the Bible and it helped her ‘’to stand up, wipe the tears from my eyes, and understand what I really wanted out of this case’’ — not revenge, but justice.

The second teen said she initially thought of Denbow as a ‘’long-lost granddad” who treated her like an adult. ‘’He made it so I couldn’t trust my family, the people who have been there my whole life, the people who are in this room supporting me now,” she said. “For that, my family and I say he deserves to pay the maximum punishment.’’

Denbow expressed remorse to the court but showed no visible emotion as he looked at Anderson.

‘’First of all, I’m very sorry for the sins I have committed,’’ he said. “I accept the responsibility for my bad actions and I’m deeply sorry for the victims.’’

‘’The entire circumstances has completely shattered Mr. Denbow and his family,’’ Denbow’s attorney, Richard Hartley of Bangor, told the judge. He said Denbow had been sexually abused repeatedly as a child. While he didn’t offer that as an excuse for Denbow’s behavior, Hartley said he wanted to point out the defendant’s dysfunctional childhood.

In recommending a lighter prison sentence, Hartley said Denbow was not a well man, having had a heart attack since the charges were lodged last year. He noted that Denbow also has been dealing with his wife’s mental problems over the years. She had not left the upstairs of their home in 7½ years before attending her husband’s sentencing, Hartley said.

The attorney also noted that Denbow has been regularly attending the New Life Church in Greenville in recent months.

Three church members spoke in Denbow’s support Monday, among them Clarence Laskey. ‘’In my estimation, he’s changed his life around,’’ he said of Denbow.

In 1982, Denbow was convicted of sexually abusing his own biological daughter from the ages of 5 to 13 and was sentenced to five years in prison with all but 120 days suspended and three years’ probation.

There was no sex offender registry in 1982. After the Legislature approved its formation in 2005 retroactive to 1982, Denbow’s conviction was making its way through the channels for processing when the latest crimes occurred, a state official said in November.

‘’This defendant is a child sexual predator’’ and should be behind bars, Piscataquis County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy told the judge at Monday’s sentencing. He said the earlier conviction underscores the ‘’defendant’s dangerous disposition.’’ The way Denbow took advantage of the young girls and the way they came to work at his business demonstrates he is a ‘’person of guile,’’ Almy added.

Noting that Denbow’s latest offense in the case occurred in March 2008, the district attorney said he worried that Denbow would reoffend. When the sting operation was conducted, Almy said Denbow was ‘’gleeful’’ he was going to have a chance to engage in a sexual encounter.

‘’He just couldn’t wait,’’ he said.

Denbow even made mention of bringing some protection, Almy said, urging Anderson to impose a hefty sentence.

‘’I’m not at all convinced he does not pose a threat now or in the future,’’ Anderson said at the sentencing. The judge said a lengthy sentence was necessary to protect other people and not to diminish the gravity of the crimes.

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