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Man guilty of molestation, murder try

Charles Robert Wilson spent years tormenting his stepchildren -- but it only took jurors one day to determine his fate: guilty on 21 counts of rape, attempted murder and child molestation.

Staring into space and wearing a blank expression, Wilson was silent Thursday as a clerk read the decision reached by the jury of seven men and five women.

The former Army serviceman was convicted of molesting the two children between 2002 and 2004 in Merced County, although prosecutors believe the abuse also happened in Tacoma, Wash., El Paso, Texas, and Germany. Prosecutors said the children, a brother and sister younger than 14 when the abuse happened in Merced, were molested by Wilson while their mother was at work.

Although Wilson, 33, displayed no emotion Thursday, the victims' 33-year-old mother wept after the first verdict was read. A female juror also shed tears as the verdicts were read.

Prosecutor David Sandhaus said Wilson ranks as one of the most malevolent and sadistic sexual predators he's ever convicted in nearly 20 years as a prosecutor.

Wilson forced the children to have sex with each other. He had sex with the girl so often that she couldn't count the number of times she was abused. "The thing that makes this guy so horrible is his desire to inflict emotional pain and physical harm on these children," Sandhaus said. "He wanted these children to hurt and be in pain for the rest of their lives."

Hayden Smith, the defendant's attorney, declined comment after the verdicts were read.

The victims' mother said she was relieved by the verdicts, although her children are still recovering from the abuse. "I'm just glad it's finally over," she said.

The great-grandmother of the female victim described her as a survivor and "a sweetheart." The girl, who's now 18, is also seeing a counselor regularly, the woman said.

Sandhaus said Wilson's conviction means that he's facing several life terms behind bars. Sandhaus said he hopes Judge Carol Ash will sentence Wilson to at least 218 years and eight months behind bars.

If Wilson does receive that sentence, he'll probably die in prison before he's eligible for parole.

Jurors also convicted Wilson of trying to hire a hitman to kill his family. During the summer of 2008, Wilson approached an inmate named Paul Perez, intending to have a hired gun kill his two stepchildren. The hit list also included their mother, her boyfriend and his own biological daughter.

Perez, however, notified law enforcement. An undercover officer, posing as a hitman, met Wilson at the jail. The officer, who was wearing a hidden camera, recorded video footage of Wilson agreeing to have his family murdered -- for $30,000. Wilson also told that officer that if he couldn't pay, he'd work off the debt by moving drugs or helping him dispose of bodies after future hits.

Despite Perez's criminal past as a convicted sex offender, Sandhaus said he did the right thing by stepping forward to help law enforcement. Otherwise, the family could have been murdered. "Maybe without Perez, someone could have carried this out," Sandhaus said.

The children's mother reported the abuse to Merced police in October 2005. Authorities arrested Wilson in Louisiana in 2007 and sent him back to Merced for prosecution.

Wilson is scheduled to be sentenced on April 3.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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