• 57°

Man pleads to rape of 9-year-old

A convicted sex offender who initially blamed his crime on his 9-year-old victim decided against an upcoming trial and pleaded guilty to the first-degree rape charge against him Wednesday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

Robert Hoke, 38, who last listed a Proctorville address, also pleaded guilty to one count of failure to register as a sex offender.

Judge Charles Cooper postponed sentencing until June 30.

Ohio law dictates that, given the age of the victim and the nature of the crime, Hoke will be sentenced to life in prison. However, he may be eligible for parole after serving 15 years.

Hoke has previously served a prison sentence in another state on a sex offense involving another juvenile.

Hoke was arrested in March during a multi-agency sex offender sweep. That action was aimed at verifying whether convicted sex offenders were abiding by the terms of federal laws that dictate where they live and that they notify local authorities if they move, change jobs and so forth.

Hoke was arrested for failing to notify the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office of a change of his address during that sweep.

After he was incarcerated, the victim told authorities about the abuse she had endured, prompting the new rape charge.

Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr., said Hoke had initially told authorities “the girl wanted it.” Collier said he told Hoke if he did not plead guilty and spare the child the ordeal of a trial his office would do everything possible to make sure Hoke never got parole.

Hoke was to have stood trial July 1 and 2. He remains in the Lawrence County Jail.