A Carson City man was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with a possibility for parole after 10 years for the April 1999 molestation of an 8-year-old girl.
Moses Wungnema, 30, a lifelong Carson City resident, pleaded guilty to lewdness with a minor under 14 years old in August. Police received reports from a mother that Wungnema had forced sexual acts on her daughter April 19, 1999.
During sentencing defense attorney Allison Joffee called clinical psychologist Jack Haraza.
Haraza diagnosed Wungnema as a regressed pedophile, meaning under normal circumstances, he would not be a threat to children, but under pressure, he would offend.
Haraza suggested the loss of a close relative a month before the offense caused Wungnema to turn to the girl as a way to deal with his loss.
"I think that Mr. Wungnema is a sex-offender. He needs treatment to understand the sexually offending behavior and thoughts and feelings that may accompany that behavior and to try to get that behavior to change," Haraza said.
In addition to Haraza, Joffee called seven witnesses, all of them immediate family members, to testify to Wungnema's character. Each of those witnesses said Wungnema was a guiding force in the family and had always been fair and kind, often steering the others to do the right thing.
"He's always been a good kid," his mother, Vera Ann Wungnema said.
Deputy District Attorney Jason Woodbury called only the victim to the stand. Her mother sat in the witness box with her but was instructed not to speak or react to the testimony.
When asked if she knew why Wungnema was arrested and on trial she replied, "Because he molested me."
In closing statements, Joffee requested Wungnema be placed on probation and he had expressed an interest in attending an inpatient care program at the Veteran's Hospital in Reno.
"With counseling in place, Mr. Wungnema hopes to learn why he perpetrated this crime. He wants to go from jail to an inpatient program because he wants to know why. He's scared," she said. "If he goes to prison he has a plan to kill himself."
Prosecutor Woodbury said probation was out of the question.
"The victim in this case is entitled to retribution. When you consider her, probation is no longer an option," he said. "Mr. Wungnema has perpetrated the worst crime you can on an 8-year-old. She has experienced things no child should."
He asked the judge to think of the victim when deciding sentencing. "Moses Wungnema has inflicted on that girl something she will never forget. This crime demands a criminal sanction."
Wungnema addressed the court apologizing to his family. "It's my fault, help me get help, " he said through sobs. "I love them all very much. Maybe someday I will see my kids again," he said adding, "I'm sorry, I know that won't change anything, but I am sorry."
Judge Maddox imposed a sentence of life in prison immediately following closing arguments.
"This is the kind of crime that a civilized society has to look down on. This kind of conduct has to be stopped," Maddox said. "You went after the weakest victim in this society."
Wungnema was given 244 days times served from his sentence, and was directed to pay $1,175 in administrative and evaluation fees.