Train volunteer sent to prison |

Train volunteer sent to prison

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

A former Mills Park train volunteer was given up to 10 years in prison Tuesday for fondling a 5-year-old girl in a park restroom.

James Merle Howard will be eligible for parole in two years. But if he doesn’t admit his wrongdoing, despite pleading guilty to an attempted lewdness charge, he’ll have some problems, District Judge Bill Maddox said.

“If you don’t admit what you did in two years, you’d probably spend 10 years in prison. You’re 57 now; you’ll probably die there,” Maddox warned.

Howard pleaded guilty Jan. 24.

According to court documents, Howard took the 5-year-old daughter of a friend to the train station with him on Oct. 13 and kissed and fondled her in the station’s employee bathroom.

During a taped interview, Howard initially denied the incident, then confessed.

The victim’s mother told the judge Tuesday her “once very loving, affectionate and vibrant” daughter now lashes out with violence.

“Kisses and hugs are a thing of the past,” she said, asking for the “harshest punishment allowed by law.”

She said when her daughter recently learned Howard was still in custody, the girl responded with, “Good ’cause he can’t hurt me no more.”

A psycho-sexual evaluation found Howard to be in the “moderate,” range to reoffend. Chief Deputy District Attorney Anne Langer said.

“He is a threat to the community,” she said.

Howard, whose only criminal record is four drunken driving arrests from more than a decade ago, declined the judge’s offer to comment prior to sentencing.

“Since I got arrested, I’ve been pretty much putting my foot in my mouth,” he said.

In addition to prison, when Howard is released he must also register as a sex-offender and be on lifetime supervision with the Nevada Department of Parole and Probation.

Howard was given credit for 142 days of time served.

In other cases Maddox heard Tuesday:

— Bradley Kruse, 33, was sentenced to 90 days in jail for the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle. Kruse said he was in fear for his life when he was threatened at a Carson City bar and he took a car left running in the parking lot.

— Shaun Jordan Lawrence, 23, was sentenced to probation and ordered to enter a drug treatment program on a charge of manufacturing drug paraphernalia. “You need to make a change Mr. Lawrence. Getting stoned the rest of our life isn’t the answer,” said Maddox in suspending one year of jail for three years probation.

— Dario Rodriguez-Serrato, 23, was sentenced to five years probation in lieu of 12 to 32 months in prison for attempted theft. He was also ordered to pay restitution of $11,750.

— Jesse Lee Rumminger, 20, was sent to a 90-day prison bootcamp program prior to his sentencing for his part in a Nov. 20 home burglary.

— Daved Seelye, 27, pleaded guilty to third-offense drunken driving. He will be sentenced April 18.

— Crystal Lee Annabel, 24, was ordered to complete a drug rehabilitation program prior to sentencing on June 13 on a charge of passing a forged check.

— Brian Farmer, 32, pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $57,000 from Sparky’s Sports Bar where he was a manager. Farmer was released on his own recognizance. He faces 12 to 120 months in prison at his April 25 sentencing.

— Christian Omar Figueroa, 22, pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon. He faces 12 to 60 months in prison when he’s sentenced May 9.

— Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.