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Grand Forks man sent to prison for 60 years for sex abuse of stepdaughter

By Stephen J. Lee / Grand Forks Herald

As he has done since being accused nearly two years ago, Justin Yarbro said just before he was sentenced Monday that he didn’t sexually assault his then-stepdaughter in their Grand Forks home for more than a year starting when she was 6.

State District Judge Debbie Kleven listened Friday, then sent Yarbro, 33, to prison for 60 years, explaining he could never repair the damage he did and probably would do it again if free.

Yarbro was charged in February 2012 with a Class AA felony count of continuous sexual abuse of a minor younger than 15, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

He has been in jail since.

Yarbro was convicted in April by a jury that saw the girl hold stuffed toys while testifying about the assaults she said started in April 2010, using details prosecutors argued showed she was telling the truth.

The girl’s mother, who divorced Yarbro in early 2012 and now uses a different last name, testified she caught Yarbro in a suspicious circumstance with her daughter, who later told her of the abuse.

Yarbro testified that his wife framed him for revenge after he threatened to divorce her and not share a financial settlement.

Yarbro and his wife were locked-out workers at the American Crystal Sugar plant in East Grand Forks in 2011 and he claimed tight finances were an issue in their marriage and a factor in the accusations.

According to trial testimony, the two grew up in the same Grand Forks neighborhood.

“I retain my innocence,” he told Kleven Friday, according to court officials.

Written victim impact statements from the girl and her mother were filed with the court before sentencing, but not read or spoken.

Abused trust

Judge Kleven sentenced Yarbro to 80 years in prison with 20 years suspended, plus a lifetime of supervised probation afterward. She also ordered him to take sex offender treatment.

In a court document outlining her reasons, Kleven said there’s no possibility of Yarbro “ever making restitution or reparation” to the girl for the damage he did to her and that as a step-parent, he “abused a position of responsibility and trust.”

Yarbro’s “demonstrated failure to accept responsibility for his conduct and his failure to show remorse” mean his crimes are “likely to recur,” and he’s “not likely” to respond to probationary treatment, Kleven wrote.

Yarbro’s attorney, Kerry Rosenquist, didn’t reply to a request Monday for comment.

County prosecutors Meredith Larson and Jason McCarthy had asked Kleven to give Yarbro life in prison.

But what he got is the same sentence Gerald Middleton, 44, received in October 2011 after he was convicted of the same charge in a similar case, McCarthy said.

“He has maintained his innocence throughout the trial, so we didn’t expect him to change his mind,” McCarthy said Monday.

Even after serving his time, Yarbro won’t be eligible for parole until he completes sex offender treatment, which requires he admit his crime, McCarthy said.

Yarbro gets credit for the 18 months he’s served in jail since his arrest.

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