An ex-Fort Carson soldier linked to the 1996 rape of a 4-year-old girl was sentenced to prison Wednesday.
Joel Market, of Mesquite, Texas, bowed his head and wept as 4th Judicial District Judge Gregory Werner sentenced him to 24 years behind bars - near the top end of the 10-32 years that Market faced after his October conviction for sexual assault on a child.
After a three-day trial, an El Paso County jury found Market guilty of breaking into the girl's Fort Carson-area home and assaulting her as she lay in bed, inflicting injuries so severe she required five follow-up surgeries to recover.
Market, 50, was tied to the crime in part by a palm print left on a kitchen window.
His arrest and conviction absolved the girl's father of suspicions that have divided the girl's family for two decades. Although Brad Pitman wasn't charged with a crime, his ex-wife became convinced he was responsible, fueling a continuing estrangement that Pitman said robbed him of a relationship with his now-grown children.
"It'll never be over - my kids hate me," he said after the sentencing. "I've more or less spent 20 years in prison, even if I wasn't behind bars."
Now living in Gillette, Wyo., where he is married with three stepchildren, Pitman said he tried unsuccessfully to reach out to his daughter on Facebook and plans to try again now that Market has been sentenced.
His children changed their last name after their parents' divorce became final, he said.
His son is a college student in California. He said he believes his daughter is living in the Pikes Peak region, but he isn't sure.
The case went cold despite a lengthy investigation by El Paso County sheriff's investigators.
New evidence surfaced in 2014, after the New Jersey State Patrol received a federal grant to process a backlog of fingerprint cards from cold cases, many of which were sent to them by law enforcement agencies from across the country.
When the agency transferred physical fingerprint cards to a federal database, they came up with a match to Market, whose prints were on file after a 1998 burglary conviction in Texas.
Prosecutors say Market confessed to the rape while under interrogation, though his court-appointed attorney disputed the claim.
The 1998 burglary conviction - which resulted in a deferred sentence - was Market's only previous brush with the law.
El Paso County sheriff's investigators said in an arrest affidavit that they suspect Market in a series of other 1996 burglaries around Fort Carson, but he hasn't been charged with other crimes.
Legal Affairs reporter