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Former cheer coach draws life sentence for molesting underage students

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, July 26, 2013, at 6:13 p.m.

A former cheer coach was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for 42 years for sexually molesting four of his underage students.

Timothy Wells-Lee, 29, was convicted by a Sedgwick County jury in April of 10 felony charges for having sexual relationships with the girls from 2006 through 2008. The charges accused him of fondling, having oral sex and having sexual intercourse with the girls before they reached the age of 16.

District Judge Ben Burgess cited Wells-Lee’s refusal to accept responsibility for his crimes in imposing the sentence. During his trial in April, Wells-Lee admitted only that he had a sexual relationship with one of the girls, and he said that occurred after her 16th birthday.

All four girls testified at the trial that Wells-Lee molested them before they turned 16.

“Obviously the jury chose to believe the four of them over Mr. Wells-Lee,” Burgess said.

Before he was sentenced, Wells-Lee read a short statement to the court.

“I’ve made mistakes in my life – more than I can count,” he said.

He said the worst decision he ever made was entering a relationship with a 16-year-old girl. He made no mention of the other girls.

Four parents of the victims spoke during the hearing.

One mother said Wells-Lee robbed her 14-year-old daughter of her first kiss, her first boyfriend and her first sexual experience

“Even though she will be fine, and she is fine, this will be with her for the rest of her life,” she said. “This also should be with him for the rest of his life.”

The mother wondered what her daughter’s daughter might ask one day.

“When she says, ‘Mommy, tell me about the first time a boy kissed you,’ what is she supposed to tell her?” the mother asked.

Because of Jessica’s Law, Wells-Lee faced a mandatory sentence of at least one life term without a chance for parole for 25 years. The primary issue at the sentencing hearing was over how the sentences on the other charges should be handled.

District Attorney Marc Bennett asked Burgess to impose two consecutive life terms plus 122 months – a sentence that would ensure that Wells-Lee would spend a significant amount of time in prison for each of the girls he molested.

“We have four separate lives that have been affected by this young man,” Bennett said. “This was not a one-moment lapse of reason. This was a long-standing decision on his part.”

Defense lawyer Sarah Swain asked Burgess to run all sentences concurrently.

“There are plenty of individuals who are being sentenced for stabbings, shootings, murders who receive far less time,” she said.

In the end Burgess structured his sentence so Wells-Lee will have to serve time for each of his victims. The overall sentence of life plus 20 years means Wells-Lee will have to serve life without a chance for parole for 25 years before he can begin serving the remaining 20 years of the sentence. If he is paroled from the life sentence, he will have to serve at least 17 years of the 20-year sentence before becoming eligible for release.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @hlaviana.

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