By Michael Regan
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A Tonawanda man was sentenced to 15 years in prison Tuesday in Niagara County Court on a single count of kidnapping as a sexually motivated felony after abducting a 5-year-old girl from her North Tonawanda home in July.
David J. Grover, 35, admitted in February to taking the young victim from her home for more than five hours last summer after police said he tricked her mother into leaving the house in the early morning hours.
Grover then sexual abused the girl in a nearby patch of woods before the authorities discovered he and the victim hours later at the girl’s father’s house in the City of Tonawanda.
The victim’s mother, who addressed the court before Grover was sentenced by Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas, said it was a relief for her see the longtime family friend head to prison.
“You may think you have fooled a lot of people,” she said. “You are obviously a disturbed individual.”
Grover, who was convicted in 2004 and 2007 on respective burglary and kidnapping charges, one involving another young girl who was kidnapped, had initially pleaded not guilty in August to first-degree sexual assault, second-degree kidnapping and committing a sexually motivated felony.
But with the prospect of a lengthy trial ahead and in an effort the spare the victim from the possibility of testifying, the Niagara County District Attorney’s Office — which would have likely have been permitted to submit some or all of the evidence from the previous convictions if a trial ensued — offered Grover a plea deal that on top of the 15-year sentence also includes 25 years post-release supervision and required registry as a sex offender.
Assistant District Attorney Holly Sloma, who said she has seen Grover in court three times during her 14-year career for incidents involving sexual malfeasance with young girls, chastised him for taking advantage of his history with the victim and her family.
“The defendant sent (the victim’s mother) off on a wild goose chase,” Sloma said, referring to an early morning ploy to get her to live the home. “This is a person she’s known her whole life.”
But Grover’s plea deal nearly collapsed in front of Farkas, during a brief address in which he framed himself as misunderstood, adding that he and victim’s family “are good friends.”
“I never committed a sex crime, never,” he said, before Farkas immediately halted the proceeding and called the Grover’s assigned attorney, David C. Douglas, and Sloma to the bench.
Farkas then told Grover that she would schedule a trial should he insist that the crime he pleaded guilty to never occurred, adding that there is a preponderance of evidence against him. A trial could have led to charges carrying a longer sentence.
“Is he the monster everyone says he is or not?” Farkas asked.
Douglas retorted that his client was referring to an earlier burglary conviction in which he was found outside 12-year-old girl’s bedroom.
“So do you want a trial?” Farkas asked Grover.
Grover responded: “I do not want a trial.”
“Are you or are you not admitting that this is a sexually motivated crime,” she asked.
“Yes,” Grover admitted.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.