Sep 25, 2015

Judge declines to reduce sentence of man who kidnapped, raped Cody girl

A judge has declined to reduce the sentence of a Montana man who kidnapped and raped a 10-year-old girl in Cody in 2012.

Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Steven Cranfill ordered Jesse P. Speer, 42, to continue serving a sentence of life in prison — plus 30-50 years — for his crimes.

Last November, Speer’s court-appointed defense attorney, Travis Smith of Cody, had asked the judge to hold a hearing where he could argue for a lesser sentence.

On Aug. 28, some nine months later, Cranfill denied the request for a reduction without holding a hearing or receiving additional information.

Jesse Speer, before his 2013 sentencing. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
“The court believes the sentence Mr. Speer has received is reasonable under the circumstances and therefore (it) will not be modified or reduced,” Cranfill wrote, reciting boilerplate language that he typically uses when he denies a request for a lesser sentence.

Speer reportedly tricked the 10-year-old child into approaching his SUV outside the Park County Complex in October 2012; he forced her inside his vehicle at gunpoint when she hesitated. After the girl bloodied his nose, he tied her up, drove her to the Carter Mountain area, sexually assaulted her and abandoned her there. Hunters found her and brought her to safety hours after her kidnapping.

“You stripped away the innocence of youth and inflicted upon her four hours of darkness and depravity that no human should experience, let alone a 10-year-old girl,” Cranfill told Speer at his November 2013 sentencing.

The girl’s recollection of the crime, combined with surveillance camera footage and DNA evidence, all helped implicate Speer.

Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric hadn’t taken an official position on Speer’s request for a hearing because he had expected additional documents to be submitted, such as how Speer is doing in the penitentiary.

The prosecutor said he likes to see all the relevant information before taking a position, though “certainly when we went in and argued the sentence in the case, we felt that was an appropriate sentence,” Skoric said.

Cranfill imposed the life-plus-30-year sentence at Skoric’s recommendation.

Smith, Speer’s attorney, had asked the judge to impose a 30- to 50-year sentence. That would have given Speer the chance to one day be released on parole. For comparison, Smith had noted that a Casper man received a 44- to 50-year sentence for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 2-year-old. A Cody man technically got a lesser sentence than Speer (life in prison) for murdering his wife in 2011.

Smith declined to comment on his recently-rejected request for a reduced sentence for Speer.

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