Static: Wednesday, September 24, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Paying for Pain

Larry Donihoo pleaded guilty in a Fort Worth courtroom Monday to molesting two teen-age girls — one charge of indecency and one charge of aggravated sexual assault — for which he received two 20-year prison sentences. It’s not the typical sentence someone plea bargains for — but then most criminals don’t have what Donihoo had: multiple members of his own family waiting for the chance to testify that he had repeatedly raped, molested, and beaten them, in incidents stretching back 40 years. Donihoo, 60, weighs more than 400 pounds and has serious health problems; his sentences are to run concurrently. If he dies in prison, his daughters, stepchildren, and at least three of his ex-wives — all of whom say they were abused — will count it a blessing.

Donihoo was arrested in March after one of the two teen-agers, relatives of Donihoo’s current wife, told a church counselor that Donihoo had been molesting her. When Donihoo’s older daughters and stepchildren from prior marriages found out that he had been accused of assaulting young girls yet again, it knocked down the walls of silence and denial they had built around themselves for decades. In the ensuing months, numerous family members told Fort Worth Weekly their horror stories (“Children of the Damned,” July 23, 2003), dating back to 1962.

On Monday morning, two of his daughters and one of his ex-wives were present for Donihoo’s sentencing. “I just feel justice has finally been served, not only for [the most recent victims] but for all of us,” said Melinda, one of his grown daughters. “We were scared at first that he would change his mind” (and his plea) at the last minute. Melinda asked that her last name not be used, as did her sister Celena, who was also in the courtroom.

The two sisters said Donihoo had nothing to say to them when he entered the courtroom, nor when Celena and her mother made statements before the judge. “At least he had to say in court that he was guilty,” Celena said. “I told him, ‘You’re supposed to be my father, but you hurt me and my children and Melinda and her children and all these little girls that were defenseless.’”

Melinda said that, since the Weekly story ran, she has gotten to visit with one of the two teen-agers, whose outcry finally put Donihoo in jail. “The first thing she said to me was, ‘Please don’t be mad at me,’” Melinda recounted. “I said, ‘Honey, I could never be mad at you. I feel what you’re feeling.’ ”

As Melinda and her sister and mother walked out of the courtroom, they were on the phone to their half-sisters and stepsiblings who live out of state, telling them what happened.

“It was a good day,” Celena said.

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