"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." Matthew 18:6
An 8-year-old girl's heartbreaking letter to Jesus begging for help after suffering two years of sexual abuse was discovered tucked away in a Bible at the child's elementary school, leading to the conviction of her 37-year-old abuser.
In October 2013, police were called to an elementary school in Covington, KY to investigate a report that a child had been sexually abused. They were presented with a note written by a young female student, which had been found in her Bible. In the note, the little girl poured out her heart to Jesus, detailing the abuse and asking Him to make it stop.
"It was addressed to Jesus, and the note disclosed how the defendant ... had been sexually abusing her, and pleading with Jesus to have the abuse stop," Kenton County Prosecutor Kate Bennett told WLOX-TV.
"It was very detailed-the allegations that she put in the Bible-so, in that sense it make the case easier," she said, explaining that her note helped them identify the rapist.
Police were able to question the little girl, who revealed the horrific sex abuse she had undergone at the hands of Eric Rivera since the time she was 6 years old. On multiple occasions, the child revealed, Rivera would show her pornographic magazines and images on his cell phone.
When officials searched Rivera's home, they found the magazines exactly as the girl had said, and over 186 pornographic images on his mobile phone. Rivera was subsequently arrested and charged with several felonies, including first degree sodomy, first degree sexual abuse and distribution of obscene material to minors.
"It makes you cry, doesn't it? It's hard not to, as a human. Your instinct is to be compassionate and to take care of children," Bennett said. "Every case is hard, but when a child comes so honestly to ask help from God, it's a tough thing to swallow...it just shows their innocence, how fragile they are."
The New York Daily News reports that legal proceedings dragged the case out nearly two years. However, following agreement to a plea deal, on May 28th, Rivera plead guilty to the charges and could face up to 25 years behind bars.
"Although 25 years doesn't seem like enough for the Defendant to serve based on the heinous and unspeakable crimes he committed, it saves the child victim from being further traumatized by reliving her nightmare of abuse," Bennett said in a statement.
"The law mandates a defendant has the right to 'face his accuser,' regardless of whether the accuser is an adult or a young child," she continued. "In addition, a guilty plea means that the defendant forfeits his right to appeal, so the victim gets closure rather than years of uncertainty."
Rivera is scheduled for final sentencing in Kenton County Circuit Court in front of Judge Patricia Summe on July 13.
IJR review reporters Justen Charters and Hayley Condon note that despite the fear and intimidation the little girl undoubtedly felt, she found strength enough to tell her story to Jesus, which ultimately saved her life.
"It's because of her courage that Rivera isn't just facing twenty years in prison, but by writing her letter to Jesus, she may have also saved someone else from becoming his next victim," they write.