An Aurora man convicted in the disappearance and presumed death of his daughter was sentenced Tuesday to 114 years behind bars.
Arapahoe County District Judge Valeria Spencer's voice cracked with emotion during the hearing where she sentenced Aaron Thompson, 42, and told him he had failed as a father and as a man.
Thompson was convicted Sept. 28 of 31 counts, including fatal child abuse, nearly four years after his daughter Aarone was reported missing. For years, he told police that she had run away because of an argument over a cookie, but then admitted at the start of his trial that his daughter was dead. He blamed his live-in girlfriend, Shely Lowe, for the girl's death.
Aarone, who would have turned 11 on Nov. 30, has not been found. Prosecutors allege she died up to two years before she was reported missing while being punished for bed wetting.
"You will be held accountable that a child is no longer on the face of this earth because of your behavior," Spencer said before handing down the sentence, adding that even if Lowe, who died of heart failure in 2006, was more to blame for the death, Thompson should have done something. "You have failed as a father. You have failed as a man. You had no courage when courage was called for."
Thompson declined to speak. He showed no emotion as he sat at the defense table, hands at this side.
Among those who asked the judge for a stiff sentence was Aarone's mother, Lynette Thompson of Detroit, who said Aaron Thompson should be drawing a map to lead investigators to her daughter's body. She said she planned to mail a card to him on holidays with a picture of her daughter and the initials "WIAP," for "Where is Aarone Please."
"I think someday it will be revealed," Lynette Thompson said outside of court, adding she was pleased with the sentence. "He needs to pay."
Lynette Thompson said Aaron Thompson was a "good gentleman" when she married him years ago. Her daughter, 19-year-old Shaunterius Johnson, said Aaron Thompson took care of her since she was 3, and she never thought he would commit such a crime.
Thompson's mother, Earia Cloman of Detroit, testified by phone that her son is a hard worker and took care of his children and others.
"He's not the monster he's made out to be," she said. "Please realize these things when you are sentencing him."
Thompson also was convicted of charges involving the beatings of seven other children who lived with him and Lowe.
During the sentencing hearing, Spencer and Prosecutor Amy Richards recounted details of the trial, including testimony from the children who said Thompson was the "enforcer," meting out punishment on Lowe's orders. Spencer said the house was a "torture chamber" and described how one of the children was held upside down by the ankles while his head was dipped in a toilet as punishment for bed wetting.
Spencer's voice cracked as she talked about how one of the surviving children described touching Aarone's fingers that were poking out from underneath the door of a closet where she was locked for hours.
Outside of court, prosecutor Robert Chappell said when Aarone's DNA was discovered on the bottom of the closet door in February 2007, it gave investigators their break in the case, corroborating testimony from the children.
"For the longest time it didn't look like we were going to be able to get any charges," Chappell said.
Aaron Thompson, faced with an upcoming visit from family, reported his daughter missing in November 2005, leading to a massive search. Police became suspicious when the family could not provide recent pictures of Aarone or recently worn clothes.
Thompson will serve 12 years in county jail before starting his 102-year prison sentence. He also was ordered to pay prosecution costs.
(This version FIXES overlines to reflect correct prison sentence)