There was a moment in the courtroom — after all the shock, the pain, the suffering since the summer of 2017 — when the 9-year-old girl could smile and move on with her family.
It happened Tuesday, minutes after Sedgwick County District Judge Joe Kisner sentenced Corbin Breitenbach to life in prison — without the possibility of parole.
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As it stands, Breitenbach, 24, will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Two months ago, a jury convicted him of attempted capital murder, rape, aggravated criminal sodomy and aggravated burglary in the attack on the girl in June of 2017. She was spending the night at a friend’s condo in west Wichita when an intruder quietly sneaked in, choked her into unconsciousness and raped and sodomized her, leaving her with severe injuries.
The uplifting moment after the sentencing looked like this: Soon after the judge ended the hearing, District Attorney Marc Bennett was standing off to the side of the courtroom, talking to the girl’s family. Then Bennett looked down, right at the girl. Eyes met. He smiled and extended his hand toward her. Their hands met in a gentle fist bump. She grinned and moments later walked out, surrounded by her family. As they passed through the doorway, a woman gently placed her palm on the girl’s head.
It was over. The monster — that’s how Breitenbach described himself in a recorded phone call from the jail, according to evidence at his trial — was going away. Forever.
The girl was going home, and she was smiling.
Kisner announced his sentence after listening to the girl’s relatives describe in horrific detail the pain she endured after being violently raped by the intruder. She was 7 when the attack occurred at a group of condos near 13th and Zoo Boulevard.
In the hushed courtroom, the judge watched a video the girl made, part of what’s called a victim impact statement.
“I don’t like talking about happened that night. It was scary for me,” she said in the video.
Breitenbach, seated by himself, perched rigidly at the edge of his chair throughout the two-hour hearing, where he represented himself. He occasionally referred to a stack of court documents neatly stowed in a binder, worn at the edges.
As the girl’s video played and she mentioned “the things you did to me,” he stared straight ahead.
He wore orange jail garb. Shackles restrained his arms and legs as deputies watched him closely. Relatives and a prosecutor positioned themselves around the girl, seated between adults on the far side of the courtroom, away from him.
The girl also sang a song in the video, with a repeating line, “Here I stand, still alive.”
When it was his turn to speak before the judge announced his sentence, Breitenbach said he would appeal his case. “It’s not a matter of if I get out; it’s a matter of when,” he said. He argued that testimony had been manipulated against him.
But in announcing the sentence, Kisner said the evidence against Breitenbach was overwhelming.
Kisner noted that investigators found Breitenbach’s DNA inside the child.
The judge noted that the death penalty was not an option.
Still, Kisner said, “The court believes that you should never be free again,” based on Breitenbach’s crimes against the girl and multiple sex and violent crimes for which Breitenbach had been convicted in 2013.
When the girl was attacked, Breitenbach was just weeks out of prison for the previous crimes. He was on parole, but violating rules of his parole by spending the night drinking heavily at his girlfriend’s condo — just across a small courtyard from where the girl was staying.
After the hearing, Bennett, the district attorney, told reporters that Breitenbach’s previous criminal record weighed on his sentence. Under Kansas law, he noted, Breitenbach is what’s known as a “persistent sex offender.”
“It’s a life sentence; he’ll never get out,” Bennett said.
During the hearing, in arguing for a maximum sentence without parole, Bennett said Breitenbach’s crimes represented “every parent’s nightmare.”