Vince Stites, a former volunteer youth pastor and haunted house owner who pleaded guilty to repeatedly sexually assaulting a teenager over 15 years ago, was sentenced to 90 days in prison Thursday.
Stites, who's already spent 110 days in custody after confessing to the crime, will also have to serve at least 10 years of probation for sex offenders, which means he’ll have to register, and won’t be allowed to use the internet or be around anyone under the age of 18 until his supervisors allow him.
The sentence, harsher than Stites’ attorney hoped for, was handed down by district judge Marla Prudek, who said she’d taken his lack of a criminal record into consideration among other things, but questioned whether Stites, 49, was sincere in his confession or remorse.
Stites’ attorney, Allen Gasper, argued that Stites wasn't a threat to the community, adding that the sexual assaults had happened almost 16 years before.
Stites was arrested in February after a 30-year-old woman, whose name is being withheld to protect her identity, came forward to Colorado Springs police alleging that 15 years earlier, she’d been in an inappropriate sexual relationship with Stites, a family friend around 19 years older than her.
She also said he helped lead the youth program at Friendship Assembly of God Church, which she was involved in as a “teen helper.” Stites is also an owner of the popular HellScream Haunted House, a name he said during a phone call played in court that he came up with during a brainstorming session with the woman.
The woman said that Stites first started making her touch him inappropriately when she was 15. Soon after, she said Stites manipulated her to have sex with him, and from there, the relationship snowballed. At times, she told police, she was having sex with Stites on a weekly basis.
The woman said her “relationship” with Stites lasted for around three years, only ending when she turned 18. She said that at first, Stites broke down her defenses with gifts, but that those were his way of manipulating her, at times giving subtle threats or warnings not to tell anyone about their “relationship.” Eventually, she said, it became normal to have sex with him.
In a December 2020 phone call with the woman, Stites claimed he was in a dark place at the time, but that he’d acted out of love and hadn’t stopped thinking about her.
During Thursday’s hearing, the woman spoke about Stites, telling him and the court that he’d taken advantage of an impressionable teenager, and that she’d carried his secret, along with trauma from his assaults, well into adulthood.
“Every aspect of my life has been affected — my mental health, my job, my marriage,” the woman tearfully said Thursday. “But there could be other girls at risk of falling into his manipulative hands. That’s where I found my strength to call police.”
In a plea deal reached in June, Stites confessed to having an inappropriate sexual relationship with the woman, adding that he’d known how old she was at the time.
On Thursday, he told the woman that he was “deeply sorry” for what he’d done.