A former Nampa daycare worker who molested children will spend at least 32 years in prison under a sentence imposed Thursday in Canyon County.
Joshua Ritchie, 23, molested 24 children beginning in 2009, prosecutors say. He was working at Cornerstone Childcare when he was arrested last August. He pleaded guilty in December to 12 sex crimes.
Ritchie tearfully apologized in an emotional statement read in court.
"I've done some inexcusable tings and will have to live the rest of my life with that knowledge," Ritchie said. He commended the victims for speaking out and said he never had the courage to do so when he was molested as a boy.
"I just recently came to understand that the abuse and pressure of keeping it secret caused many of my issues," Ritchie said. "If I'd spoken up and said what happened to me, we would not be here today."
But he emphasized that he wasn't making excuses.
"That man may have warped my way of thinking, but I know it was still my decision to act," Ritchie said. "I really want to fix myself."
Third District Judge Bradley Ford sentenced Ritchie to 32 years to life in prison after hearing about three hours of statements from parents and victims and from Ritchie's father.
Many parents cried as they described the effect Ritchie's abuse has had on their children and families. They described their fear of seeing their children grow up unable to form normal relationships.
"Kids are so powerless and trusting. My concern now is that the line has been blurred between right and wrong, good guy and bad guy," said the mother of two boys, ages 7 and 13. "I hope Josh remains in prison for a very long time and is never allowed near children again."
A Boise police officer whose son was molested by Ritchie broke down as he described his dedication to his job and devastation in knowing he'd "failed in his most important job as a father."
He said his son feared daycare and cried when he had to go, but "I just saw it as a damn phase," the officer said. "I forced him back into harm's way, over and over and over again."
"The crazy thing is, I'm trained to see these kinds of signs, and I didn't see it until it was too late," he continued.
The officer called Ritchie "my own worst enemy."
"The only reasonable sentence you deserve is the death penalty in my mind," the officer said, before describing his urge to take matters into his own hands when two Canyon County detectives told him his son was a victim.
"I have to have some faith in the justice system, or I wouldn't be working in it," the officer said.
Another father cried as he recalled his own molestation as a child and how it affected him as an adult.
"I can look at my boys, and I don't see any change in them, but as I recall myself as a child, I didn't really look back at my abuse at the time until i was an adult," he said. "I've read the statements. I know Josh was abused. But I know you don't have to abuse other children to get on with your life."
Lisa Tuohy owned the daycare that employed Ritchie. She wept Thursday as she described the devastation Ritchie caused her community, business and family.
"You destroyed my reputation as a childcare provider," she said. "You knew the monster you were, yet every day, you had the audacity to go to work." Tuohy said she's been left to pick up the pieces of Ritchie's actions while he's been in jail.
"I had no clue the sick behavior you were capable of. You destroyed my livelihood and caused me to be look at in this community as a child molester," Tuohy said. "People don't talk to me like they used to...My life, as I knew it, was ruined by you."
Tuohy mentioned two mothers in particular - a single mother who adopted children and a woman stricken with cancer - whom she was especially appalled Ritchie would manipulate.
"People have yelled and screamed and threatened to sue me because of your sick and disgusting acts on these poor children," Tuohy said.
A court employee read a statement from a young boy who was molested by Ritchie.
"You make me feel sick, and I don't ever want to see you again," the boy wrote. "You hurt my friend, and everyday I saw him, he had tears in his eyes. That's all I have to say."
Ritchie's father, Phillip Ritchie, said his son was molested by a relative, and he decided not to pursue charges.
"I do not want that to be an excuse for what happened here," Phillip Ritchie said.
Ritchie said he regrets not pursuing charges but said he always intended to seek revenge.
"I intended to one day hold my son's abuser accountable, as soon as his parents were no longer around to be affected," Ritchie said.
Ritchie did not ask for leniency for his son and said he understands the anger the victims feel.
"I disagree with practically nothing I've heard," Ritchie said.
Joshua Ritchie often babysat the autistic, adopted sons of a single woman whom he knew had already been abused. He molested them repeatedly.
"Their mother had befriended him and trusted him to take care of their children," said Erica Kallin, Canyon County deputy prosecutor.
Kallin said Ritchie used snacks and games like Angry Birds to entice children to touch him or allow him to molest them. He sometimes molested the children as they slept at the daycare.
Parents in the packed courtroom wept as Kallin described the horrific details of the abuse to which Ritchie subjected their children.
Police began investigating Ritchie in August after a mother reported that her 5-year-old son said Ritchie forced him to touch his genitals on several occasions. According to court documents, a detective posed as the boy's father and confronted Ritchie, asking him if he'd been experimenting. Richie responded Uh huh, police said.