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Man sentenced for sexually abusing two children as victims say he “destroyed” their family

Crime Watch

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Vernal G. Adams at his sentencing for sexually abusing two relatives. | Eric Grossarth

IDAHO FALLS — A 74-year-old Idaho Falls man was sentenced to prison Wednesday for molesting two relatives leaving their family “destroyed” and “broken.”

Vernal G. Adams will serve seven years fixed and 18 years indeterminate after pleading guilty to one felony count of sexual abuse of a minor under 16. Adams was originally charged in September with child sex abuse and one felony count of lewd conduct with a child under 16. As part of a plea agreement, the lewd conduct charge was dismissed in January.

“He was willing to destroy anything in his way with his selfish and disgusting desires,” said the mother of the victims during the sentencing hearing.

Adams sexually abused the young girls for years in Idaho Falls, Ammon and Rexburg. One of the victims spoke during the hearing and described the horrors she experienced by a man who claimed to love them.

“What kind of person would say they love someone but puts them through hell for unspeakable self-gain?” she asked.

Another victim said words could not describe what she has felt over the last dozen years since she was molested by “someone they trusted the most.” She described what Adams did to her as “disgusting” and “selfish” and said she has suffered from severe mental trauma with her own life sentence given to her by Adams.

With tear-filled eyes, Adams’ defense attorney, Douglas Knutson, said “everyone in this room acknowledges the power of these impact statements.”

Knutson said while he has an obligation to serve as the advocate of his client, he would be wrong to say anything to diminish what the victims experienced.

Knutson asked District Judge Bruce Pickett to give Adams much less than the seven-year minimum recommended by the prosecutor as that time would likely be a death sentence for Adams.

Bonneville County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Dewey noted a psychosexual evaluation showed Adams has a history of deviant sexual behavior since he was young. He mentioned that Adams disclosed he abused a teenage girl when he was in his 40s and the pattern continued well into his elderly years.

“This family is damaged if not broken,” Dewey said.

When asked if he wanted to speak, Adams said he was very sorry for the destruction he caused.

“I hope some year (the victims) will be able to put this in the backs of their minds so they can have some peace,” Adams said.

Vernal G. Adams using a walker as he is turned over to the Bonneville County Sheriff’s office to await transportation to prison. | Eric Grossarth

Pickett called the victims statements powerful and said they show what sexual abuse can do to families. He mentioned that Adams has shown a pattern of abuse for years by putting his sexual needs and desires above those he is supposed to protect.

In addition to the prison sentence, Adams was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and could possibly be required to pay for the victims to obtain professional counseling.