Styles sentenced to 16 years for molesting girl, 5

By: 
Kate Wehlann, Staff Writer

After pleading guilty to Level 3 felony child molestation in December, Grady Styles, 58, Vallonia, was sentenced to 16 years (four suspended) with the Indiana Department of Correction during a hearing on Thursday. By law, 16 years with the DOC is the maximum for a Level 3 child molestation offense.

In December of 2016, Styles was arrested for molesting a 5-year-old girl on two separate occasions at his home in August.

Styles’s attorney, Mark Dove, called three of Styles’s friends to speak on his behalf.

Leroy Collins is a pastor of more than 50 years, living in Nashville, Indiana, but who bought property next door to Styles to use as a vacation home about 15 years ago.

He said Styles was like a son or brother to him.

“From the time I met Grady, I’ve met a lot of people, but I haven’t met too many who gave himself to people the way he has,” he said.

Collins said Styles, who was heavily involved in a preaching ministry at the Washington County Jail, would bring inmates home after they were released until they had somewhere to go and said Styles’s wife, Debbie, would bring boys from the Indiana Boys School, where she worked, home to stay with them as well, conducting Bible studies in their home.

“I didn’t know anyone who needed help that Grady wouldn’t help,” said Collins. 

Dove asked Collins what impact he believed Styles’s mother would feel should Styles be incarcerated for his crime.

“When Grady brought her back from Georgia, I told my wife I didn’t think she would last long,” said Collins. “She couldn’t walk or get around on her own, but Grady got her on her feet. She has no family here aside from Grady’s children. A lot of things hinge on Grady being able to help her.”

After the second incident of molestation, Collins said Styles came to him to tell him what he’d done and said Styles showed remorse.

“He cried and cried and cried,” said Collins, who let Styles stay in his home after a restraining order was issued. “He said he apologized to his family and talked to God about it … He said his heart and conscience bothered him so much, he didn’t know what to do. He apologized again and again.”

Judge Larry Medlock asked Collins if he ever would have thought his friend would “violate a 5-year-old?”

“Grady just wasn’t that kind of person,” Collins replied.

“Are you aware he admitted to it?” Medlock asked.

Collins blustered and admitted he wasn’t aware of that.

Chris Criminger has known Styles for eight years and works with a jail ministry in Jackson County. He said Styles has been a member of his church for five years.

He told the court after the accusations were leveled against Styles, it caused some disruption in their church.

“Younger families with young kids caused problems with the accusation alone,” said Criminger. ”It put the church leadership in a tough position.”

He said, after some discussion, Styles removed himself from the church community and that Styles more or less kept to himself following the accusation. He said he’s even been concerned that Styles might try to hurt himself.

“The deep sorrow and repentance has been commendable,” said Criminger. “He didn’t care what happened to himself. I have been concerned he may try to harm himself. He’s just struggled so badly.”

Criminger said, despite the pain Styles’s actions have caused his family, they have begun to forgive him.

“I’ve never seen a family come around him like Grady’s has,” he said. “There’s been a lot of love and forgiveness in his family despite this.”

He added he didn’t think Styles is likely to reoffend.

“People have really strong views, but in my heart, I believe this will slowly heal him and he’ll get back where he needs to be.”

Robert Hounshel also met Styles at church.

“He started coming to our church between eight and 10 years ago,” said Hounshel. “We’ve been joined at the hip ever since.”

He recounted the ways Styles helped him with ministering to the community through various avenues — financial and labor — and that he could always rely on Styles.

He told of a family near Styles whose home burnt down and the way Styles went over to help them set up an outbuilding on their property so they would have somewhere to stay throughout the winter.

“Grady fit everything we were looking for,” said Hounshel. “… He never said no.”

He said he was the one who advised Styles to seek counsel after he admitted he may be accused of something.

“Grady called me and asked me to come over,” said Hounshel. “This wasn’t unusual, but there was this urgency to it this time. It took a few minutes, but he told me eventually that he could be accused of horrible things. He didn’t give details and I didn’t ask. It’s not my nature. I said, ‘If you’re going to be accused of something, we need to get you an attorney.’”

Dove said when Styles told him he could be accused of a crime, he advised Styles not to say anything.

“I told him, ‘Don’t lie, but don’t offer up any information,’” said Dove.

Hounshel said that didn’t happen.

“One day, I was trying to get in touch with Grady and he was in the process of saying goodbye to his family because he was going to go to the Indiana State Police and confess,” said Hounshel. “There wasn’t the tears type of emotion, but you could tell he was serious.”

Indiana State Trooper Brett Walters was the officer who signed the arrest warrant for Styles. He said officers arrested him at his home on Dec. 9, 2016, after a brief interview.

“I believe they had enough to arrest him then and I arrested him and took him up to the jail,” said Walters.

Hounshel said it was at church, between Sunday School and the morning service, Styles eventually told him that he had done what he was accused of.

“He had tears rolling down both cheeks,” said Hounshel. “… I told him that didn’t make any difference in our friendship. You go through good times and you go through bad times … I have great faith in God and I won’t pass judgement. He will always be my friend.”

Hounshel said Styles has already been punished for his crime.

“He’s lost the bulk of his business … and he’s ostracized himself,” he said. “His finances are almost totally gone. He’s lost his good name in public and now he’ll be registered as a sex offender. He’s already been punished.”

Washington County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Wynn asked Hounshel if, as he and others have attested to Styles’s trustworthiness and dependability, Styles’s victim should also have been able to trust him?

“Yes,” Hounshel replied and indicated that he, too, had been unaware of the details of the molestation.

Styles broke down crying when he spoke before the judge.

“I’m very sorry for what I did,” he said, tearfully. “… I love my wife. I love [the child] I did this to. All I ask is for any kind of mercy you’ll give me and anything I can do to make it right, I’ll do.”

The victim’s mother declined to speak during the hearing, but a victim impact statement was presented as evidence, though not made available to the public.

Prosecuting attorney Tara Hunt said there were multiple aggravators in the case, including Styles’s criminal history (eight arrests and five convictions), the fact the victim was younger than 12 and that she had been in the care, custody or control of Styles at the time of the incidents. Hunt said there were no mitigating factors that could lessen the sentence and claimed that Styles had continued to drive past the victim’s home for a time.

“The victim trusted him and he abused that severely,” she said. “The victim did nothing to provoke this — she was 5 years old. There will be no hardship for Mr. Styles if he were to be incarcerated. His children are adults and he has no spouse [Debbie Styles filed for divorce in July 2017, but it has yet to be finalized]. Because he violated a child, he lost those things. We’ve heard from friends and members of the clergy. They said he was always there and dependable and had high moral standards. He was always there to help. Well, he helped himself sexually to a 5-year-old girl. It’s unconscionable.”

Hunt said the child has been in counseling weekly in an effort to try to deal with what happened to her. 

“She’ll deal with this for the rest of her life,” said Hunt. “In all her future relationships. That’s never going to go away. Mr. Styles is 58. He’s gone his whole life without having to make decisions with something like this hanging over him. … Her life is ruined forever.”

Dove said he would like to paint Styles as the victim, but said he’s not and blamed the lack of mitigating factors found by the state on the probation department.

“There was no finding of mitigating factors because the probation department is just like the rest of the world,” he said, his voice rising. “Anything good you’ve done isn’t considered. You’re just a child molester.”

Dove said, while acknowledging Styles’s previous brushes with the law, his client has spent a substantial time crime-free and said the fact he took a plea on this case should count in his favor and prove remorse.

“He didn’t require anyone to relive this,” he said. “… I could have taken this girl on the stand and confused her, but that’s not what Grady wanted to do. I couldn’t even keep him quiet. His heart won’t let him live with what he did. There is remorse there.”

He added that there is undue hardship in this case, pointing to Grady’s mother, sitting in the audience. He suggested Styles’s sentence be served outside of prison on probation or even house arrest.

“He could serve his sentence on home detention,” said Dove. “He’ll do it and pay whatever the court asks.”

He continued, saying he believed the ongoing counseling Styles’s victim is undergoing may be causing more harm.

“I’m not a psychiatrist and neither is [Tara Hunt], but I believe when we hammer a child over and over for what happened, they never forget it,” said Dove. “She may have been able to forget what happened if she didn’t have it.”

He added that because she will be a teenager when Styles would be released, that this counseling and Styles’s incarceration could make her believe she is the reason he is in jail.

Hunt agreed she is not a psychiatrist, but that’s where her agreement ended.

“I’m appalled that he’d suggest continued counseling for a little girl who’s been molested could be problematic,” she said. “If nothing was done, that would teach a 5-year-old it’s OK for others to do this to her, that this is just what people do … The fact he goes to prison might be good for her and show her the justice system works.”

Hunt said the state was asking for Styles to serve the 16 years allowed by law in prison.

Having listened to their arguments, Medlock retreated to his office to think and returned some time later with his decision.

“Mr. Styles, I believe you’re remorseful and for the right reasons … but I don’t understand how you got in this position,” said Medlock. “For a long time, you lived a law-abiding life. You can live your whole life in a way you should and then get involved with something like this and have it all come crashing down. You have friends who will still be your friends, but society will look at you different. I have an obligation to society. Your victim won’t be the reason you’re in prison, Mr. Styles. Your own behavior put you there.”

He sentenced Styles to 16 years with the IDOC, with four years suspended, with credit for the 36 days he’s already spent in jail and 12 days he earned for good behavior. By Indiana law, Washington County Prosecutor Dustin Houchin said Styles would serve, at minimum, nine years in prison and then the four suspended years on probation. Should he violate the probation in any way, he could be sent back to prison to serve the duration of his sentence. He also must register as a sex offender at the time of his release.

Medlock said he wouldn’t force Styles to take a sex offender class, believing Styles already knew what he’d done was wrong, and knew when he committed the acts that they were wrong. 

“It’s reprehensible,” said Medlock. “It is beyond my ability to understand how you could be involved with a 5-year-old.”

kate@salemleader.com

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