WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) — Douglas Edwards has been sentenced to at least 80 years in prison after he was convicted Wednesday of kidnapping a 6-year-old girl from her yard and leaving her chained to a tree in September of 2016.
Edwards, 47, was found of guilty of attempted murder, statutory sexual offense, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, and indecent liberties.
The jury deliberated Thursday before Edwards was sentenced and decided there were aggravating factors associated with the attempted murder, statutory sex offense, and indecent liberties charges. The prosecutors called Edwards’ crimes heinous, atrocious, and cruel.
Edwards was sentenced to between 80 and 110 years in prison by Judge Phyllis Gorham.
Prior to the judge sentencing Edwards, the mother of the victim delivered an impact statement to the court through an interpreter.
“I would like to thank each and every one of you for having done justice for our little one,” she said. “It’s very difficult having to go through all of this, needing to go out and play with children outside and in one instant to not be able to find her and not know what happened. Children are our most prized treasured possession that God has given us, and it’s so so difficult to know someone has snatched that from you. And thank you for having done justice. It’s not fair for men such as this one to be out free and to be out doing such malicious, evil things with such young children. Defenseless children that can’t defend themselves.”
“And I hope that no other family and none of you have to go through something so horrible,” she continued.
Edwards’ defense lawyer Kenneth Hatcher also spoke to the court on Edwards’ behalf lobbying for a lighter sentence.
Hatcher said Edwards has had a positive employment history and helped build a local sushi restaurant.
Hatcher said his client admitted to some wrongdoing early in the investigation and that Edwards has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to his upbringing. Edwards testified Tuesday that he was abused by his mother’s boyfriends as a child, and sexually assaulted by his neighbor. He said that his mother had drug problems and that he was raised around drugs and partying.
“The court is presented with a fundamental question on sentencing. What he has been found guilty of, there is no time that can make up for it,” Hatcher said. “Do we want to give Mr. Edwards hope that he will one day be able to get out of prison or do we not? It is [Edwards] and [my] belief that Mr. Edwards was set up for failure. The court hears all the time ‘excuses, excuses’ but I think on this occasion, the physical, sexual and mental abuse that started when he was 5 years old should be taken into consideration.”
“Just as there’s good in the world there’s evil, and sometimes we see when evil and innocence intersect..that’s what you call horror. And this was every parent’s’ worst nightmare,” District Attorney Ben David said at a news conference.
During the week-long trial, the state called dozens of witnesses to the stand, who gave a timeline of the girl’s abduction from her Monkey Junction home, and described the little girl’s rescue from the woods off of River Road.
Testimony revealed that Edwards was on a moped when he kidnapped the girl and took her to some woods off River Road. The girl testified remotely that the man kissed her on the cheek and put a chain around her neck before sexually assaulting her.
Edwards took the stand Tuesday and said he did not remember taking the girl from her yard but did remember chaining her to the tree and leaving her there so he could figure out how to get out of the situation he was in.
The prosecution called witnesses who said it was possible that leaving the girl overnight could have killed her, and argued that by leaving her in the woods, that was Edwards’ intent.
The District Attorney said in his closing arguments that Edwards had motive, opportunity and means to justify the attempted murder charge, and said that chaining her to the ground was tortuous.