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Angry parents on hand as admitted child sex offender gets 10-year sentence

Steven Gentry, center, pleaded guilty to three counts of assasult and battery in a York County courtroom Thursday and was sentenced to 10 years.
Steven Gentry, center, pleaded guilty to three counts of assasult and battery in a York County courtroom Thursday and was sentenced to 10 years. adys@heraldonline.com

In a York County court for sex crimes against children at a day care, there would be no forgiveness Thursday.

Steven Gentry, 29, a former worker at Fort Mill’s Smart Kids Child Development Center day care, pleaded guilty to inappropriately touching three boys during movie times in 2015 and 2016. Gentry had the boys sit on his lap, a prosecutor said.

As Gentry was sentenced to 10 years in prison, the parents of one of the victims spoke – the father in open court, the mother via letter. The Herald is not using the parents’ name to protect the identity of the child.

The father said every person in court who is a parent should be appalled.

“I knew the day I saw him, he was sick, there was something wrong with him,” the father said as he gripped a lectern for support.

He looked at Gentry. “You corrupted those three kids for life. ... It’s just sick what you did. That’s my son you touched.”

The father paused and said he considered taking the law in his own hands.

“You want to take life in your hands; that was what I felt like doing,” the father said. “But I didn’t.”

Gentry said nothing. But he pleaded guilty to three counts of assault and battery for touching that little boy, and two others.

“We trusted you,” the mother’s letter stated. “How dare you. You have robbed (my son) of his childhood.”

Gentry said nothing.

One of the children, 8 years old, wrote a letter that was read in an otherwise shocked and silent courtroom.

“Mr. Steven, you are very, very mean,” the boy wrote. “I hope you stop doing this. I know you say I’m lying, but just stop it.”

Gentry was a babysitter for another of the children whose mother spoke in court. She called Gentry “a sick individual” and said: “I hope he gets what he deserves.”

Another set of parents was too distraught to speak . They sat in the courtroom. Their silence and eyes spoke for them.

The deal prosecutors and Gentry’s lawyers worked out gave Gentry 10 years in prison. The deal also requires him to register as a sex offender for life. It spared the children having to testify.

The crimes were described by prosecutor Erin Joyner. In the day care clubhouse, during movies, Gentry would sit the children on his lap and fondle them. Repeatedly, Joyner said.

Gentry was caught when one of the children refused to go to the center because Gentry was there. The parents asked for an investigation, which led to the discovery of two other victims, Joyner said.

Gentry accepted his 10 years in prison and was led off in handcuffs.

The parents of the children walked out of the courtroom and out of the courthouse. There were no hugs for the guilty man. And no forgiveness.

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