Former Amherst Schools custodian Raymond “Jack” Tiller was sentenced Thursday to three years probation, avoiding jail time.
The penalty was handed down by Lorain County Court of Common Pleas judge Michele Arredondo based on the wishes of the victim’s family.
Tiller, 57, was the night custodian at Harris Elementary School on South Lake Street in Amherst.
He molested an 11-year-old girl after-hours at the school on April 5, 2014, according to police statements and court records.
Police and school officials have declined to speak on how the situation could unfold inside an elementary school. They did say the victim was not an Amherst student.
Now 13, the tiny girl stepped forward Thursday and told the judge she never thought Tiller, with whom she previously had a close personal connection, would cause her harm.
She lost her innocence when “he touched me like I was his wife,” the girl said, recalling how she was afraid the same fate would behalf her brother.
Two years later, her positive outlook is ruined and she has trouble trusting grown-ups, worrying they will hurt her. The young girl said abuse at the hands of Tiller left her unable to express love.
Directly addressing her abuser, the child said he hurt her physically and emotionally — but wants him to know he did not ruin her life, only made it harder.
The victim’s mother also addressed the court. At first she held back tears, then stopped to let them flow.
“Through all this process, I realized secrets do not hold a family together,” she said, and later added: “Raymond Tiller has done horrible things” for many years that took the bravery of her child to reveal.
“He scared her. He placed her in the dark. And he wanted more of her,” the mother said, sobbing.
Tiller pleaded guilty to counts of felony kidnapping and gross sexual imposition just two days before a trial was set to begin.
The victim’s mother, seeking closure, asked him to admit he did so because it was right, not to receive the prosecution’s best plea deal.
Tiller did not speak to the question. He did tell Arredondo he is “remorseful for this whole situation.”
The judge asked the victim’s mother whether the family would support a sentence without prison time. After a long pause, the woman replied, “In my heart, I feel he should have to serve some time.”
Speaking for the family, the mother did eventually support the parole-based sentence.
In addition to community control, Tiller must register as a Tier II sex offender, enroll in a sex offender program, get treatment, and have no contact with his victim or her mother.
Arredondo made it clear: If he violates parole in any way, she will make sure he spends the maximum sentence behind bars.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Raymond Tiller stands before judge Michele Arredondo for sentencing Thursday, accepting a deal without jail time.