RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A Southern California man was sentenced Friday to 230 years to life in prison for years of sex abuse and rape against the underage daughter of his girlfriend, resulting in the victim giving birth to his child at 13, officials said.
Deon Austin Welch, 30, was convicted in June of 15 counts of child rape for the abuse that began when the girl was 11, according to Riverside County court documents.
It was an aggravated case in which the girl’s mother and county social workers failed to protect her, the documents show.
The victim became pregnant in early 2016 and delivered a child with DNA matching the defendant’s that November, KTLA reports. But prosecutors say she told her mother’s coworker Welch had been coming into her bed and touching her sexually years before, in March 2014.
At that point, the case was referred to county’s Department of Public Social Services, and Hemet police began investigating.
That June, the victim told investigators Welch raped her multiple times in their apartment. But her mother insisted on being present for the ensuing forensic medical exam and made it difficult for staff to establish facts in the case, resulting in the test being marked inconclusive, according to a trial brief.
Weeks later, the mother had a restraining order against Welch dismissed, lying that he was living in Mexico and couldn’t return. The defendant returned to the apartment a short time later, and the rapes continued, officials said.
Prosecutors say the victim told a social worker that Welch had returned to the home in October 2014, but neither social worker nor mother did anything about it.
“The only option left for the victim was to learn to accept the situation and survive,” the trial brief states. “There was no way out, and no place left to run.”
The social worker allegedly continued regular contact with the victim through 2016 — including after she became pregnant.
Police were called about the case again in September 2016, when the girl’s mother took her to the Hemet Valley Medical Hospital and inquired about getting an abortion.
When officers interviewed the girl again, she told them she’d been raped at least 90 times.
Welch was arrested months later, on March 17, 2017.
In an initial post-arrest interview, he at first denied any inappropriate sexual contact with the victim. He later claimed he woke up at 2 a.m. after passing out on the couch and that she got on top of him, but he wasn’t sure if they had sex, court documents show.
In a subsequent interview, Welch allegedly admitted to having sex with her multiple times but said he was “kind of blackmailed into it.” He stated that the victim had threatened him by saying, “If you don’t do this, I’m going to tell my mom,” according to the brief.
Welch showed no emotion as the judge announced his life sentence Friday, the Desert Sun reported.
In February 2018, the victim’s mother was charged with three felonies: child endangerment, perjury and being an accessory to repeated child molestation. She was sentenced to formal probation and a one-year jail term with a five year, eight months suspended sentence.
Last August, the girl was awarded $10 million in a settlement with DPSS after suing the agency for alleged violation of the state’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act and breach of duties.
The case is one of several that drew ire against DPSS for its failure to report and investigate child abuse claims, resulting in the agency’s director, Susan von Zabern, leaving her post in September 2018.