Published 11:57 am Friday, January 23, 2009

Moments after hearing the word “guilty” attached to his name, an Ironton area man became ill at the Lawrence County Jail and was taken to an area hospital, where he remained this morning.

Sonny Riffe, 59, of 967 County Road 2, now faces a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of life in prison after a six-man, six-woman Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Jury decided he did indeed rape a then 9-year-old girl in 2007.

The jury deliberated less than four hours total Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning before returning that verdict.

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“I felt the evidence as it was presented was incriminating,” one juror said as he left the courthouse.

“Medical evidence,” another juror said. “That was it for me.” The jurors did not give their names.

Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor Jeff Smith said he was pleased with the jury’s decision and appreciated their service to the community.

“It was a difficult case not only to present but for them to listen to,” Smith said. “I am pleased for this young girl. I hope she can get on with her life and put this behind her as best she can. She’s a precious little girl. She’s been through a lot. I think it took a lot of courage for her to come and testify.”

Defense counsel Chris Delawder and Mike Gleichauf did not comment as they left the courtroom with Riffe after the verdict was read. Riffe, who had been free on bond, was taken immediately to the Lawrence County Jail.

As the verdict was read Riffe stood with his head bowed.

Afterward, he dabbed at his eyes first with his fingers and then with a Kleenex. His wife, Carolyn, sat stoically in the front row as Judge Charles Cooper read the verdict. But on either side of her, a cousin, Terri Cochran, and Sonny Riffe’s daughter, Connie Krimm, cried.

Cooper scheduled sentencing for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Riffe was arrested in October 2007 after the little girl told family members Riffe had sexually abused her. She testified during the trial that the abuse had happened many times, always when Carolyn Riffe was not at home.

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said Riffe suffered chest pains and was taken to Southern Ohio Medical Center in Portsmouth, where he was admitted as a patient.

Riffe is under 24-hour armed guard at that facility.