As a convicted child molester who confessed to the “monstrous acts” was sentenced last week, his Missouri hometown continued to declare its support and belief that he is innocent.
Darren Paden, 52, of Dearborn, was charged in 2013 with sexually abusing a child, repeatedly, over a decade, according to The Kansas City Star.
After two years that divided this community of less than 500, the judge handed down the sentence of 50 years in prison for Paden on two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy for abusing the girl before she turned five, 200 to 300 times over a decade.
While it may not be surprising that a small town would rally to support one of its own in a tragic situation, the residents of this Platte County hamlet have gone further, seemingly denying Paden’s guilt, even though he confessed. They have also allegedly not been supportive of the victim, who wiped away tears after the sentencing, according to the Star.
As prominent townspeople, including the former bank president and church elders, continued to back Paden — even filing letters with the court to show him leniency — the victim in the case, now 18, said that though she had some support, she mostly felt ostracized and shunned in the town she calls home.
Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said, in a statement, that the lack of support for the victim was “deeply troubling,” according to the Star.
“There are certainly a few good people in the community who have offered their support to this young victim,” Zahnd said. “It is shocking, however, that many continue to support a defendant whose guilt was never truly in doubt. If it takes a village to raise a child, what is a child to do when the village turns its back and supports a confessed child molester?”
Residents in Dearborn took sides as the young girl came forward, not wanting to accept the accusations against Paden, who was known as a good man in the town, a father of seven and former chief of the volunteer fire department.
The victim, on the other hand, said she could not face the world, or her town after what had happened.
“I couldn’t face this town that made me feel like I was unwanted by everyone,” she said.
And as letters of support, endorsements and encouragement poured in for the convicted molester, the victim read from a statement in the courtroom.
“To say you support someone who had done this sort of thing makes me wonder how some would react if a son/daughter told you they were a victim of these behaviors,” she said. “Would you sign a petition then? Would you write letters of support?”
“I know many people think, ‘There is no way he could do this,’ or ‘He was too good of a man to have done something like this,’ ” she said. “Nobody knows what happens behind closed doors.”
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