Sex offender enters plea

WELLSBURG – Rather than face a possible 22 to 50 years in prison for child sex charges, Larry M. Hundagen accepted a plea deal providing him with two years of probation and no jail time.

First Judicial Circuit Judge Ronald Wilson accepted the plea agreement between defense attorney Robert McCoid and Assistant Ohio County Prosecutor Shawn Turak, who served as a special prosecutor in the Brooke County case.

The agreement calls for Hundagen, 67, of Windsor Heights to plead guilty to one count of third degree sexual assault in exchange for a one-to-five-year prison sentence suspended in lieu of probation. He must register as a sex offender in West Virginia and be placed on 10 years of supervised release upon completion of his probation period.

A Brooke County grand jury indicted Hundagen in June for third-degree sexual abuse, third-degree sexual assault and two counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, custodian or person in a position of trust for alleged sexual contact and intercourse with a minor in July 2008.

The matter had been scheduled for trial this week but the plea deal and sentencing came Monday. Hundagen submitted an Alford plea, which allowed him to not admit guilt but agree the state had sufficient evidence to convict him if the case had gone to trial.

Turak said she agreed to the plea out of concern for the victim.

“It spares the victim in the case the emotional upheaval a trial requires,” she said. “In the end, the victim was satisfied with the terms of the agreement.”

She said the state did not have any physical evidence to corroborate the victim’s allegations because the alleged offense was not reported until four years after the fact.

“I saw some infirmities in the case that could present a risk at trial,” she said, though she added there was “a lot of circumstantial evidence to establish there was an inappropriate relationship.”

McCoid agreed with Turak’s assessment of a lack of physical evidence.

“It was a defensible case from the beginning,” he said. “The accuser gave multiple inconsistent statements and her allegations were four years old. There was no physical evidence and no confession from the accused. That all equals a defensible case.”

Turak told the court the offense arose between July 17-25, 2008, while the then-15-year-old victim was staying at Hundagen’s home to care for his wife while she recovered from surgery.

She said the Hundagens and the victim’s family has become close friends because of their shared interest in boating at Seneca Lake in Ohio. Turak said if the case had gone to trial, the victim would testify she had sexual intercourse with the then 62-year-old defendant. She said evidence would have shown the defendant had bought the victim clothes, jewelry, stuffed animals and gave her money.

According to Turak, Hundagen maintained throughout the investigation that nothing sexual had ever occurred between him and the victim but he told a neighbor that he held hands with her behind his wife’s back and that he and the victim had kissed on two occasions.