RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Two Iowa residents were sentenced to decades in prison Friday for forcing a young woman into prostitution and torturing her, leaving her with physical and psychological scars that a judge said might never heal.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson sentenced Aldair Hodza to almost 42 years in prison. He sentenced Laura Sorensen to 40 years.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors had recommended prison terms of 35 years — 11 more than the top end of the federal sentencing guideline range for their guilty pleas to transporting a person across state lines for prostitution. Hudson said that after looking at photographs of the victim's wounds, he decided even that was not enough.
"She may never be able to have a normal relationship because of the unusual and rare level of depravity in this case," Hudson said.
According to court papers, the defendants from Clive, Iowa, lured the victim into a recreational vehicle last December by saying they would take her to see a friend. Prosecutor Angela Miller said the sign posted over the entrance to Dante's Inferno — "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here" — would have been appropriate over the door of that RV.
For the next 18 days, the 20-year-old victim was sexually assaulted and forced to have sex with men who answered online ads. Hodza, 36, and Sorensen, 31, burned her with keys and scissors heated over the RV's stove and extinguished cigarettes on her body. They drove nails into her feet, poured bleach into her wounds, and dragged her by a dog leash down a gravel path.
Hodza's 8-year-old daughter witnessed some of the abuse and was in the vehicle during some of the sex acts.
The victim feared for her life after Hodza slit a dog's throat in the RV and threatened to kill her by slowly cutting out her organs if she did not cooperate, the prosecutor said.
The torture finally ended when a trucker at a New Kent County truck stop called police after spotting through the RV window a woman who appeared frightened and malnourished.
Sorensen trembled as Miller recited details of the abuse.
The victim, surrounded by family and friends, listened but did not testify. Miller said she has been unable to talk about the ordeal even to her doctors.
Both defendants apologized before being sentenced.
"This is monstrous, horrible, senseless, inexplicable, inexcusable," Hodza said. "I offer sincere apologies. I know that doesn't mean much because I can't take back what happened."
Sorensen said she is "very sorry" and added: "I made a bad choice. However, I am not a bad person."
The judge said he believes Sorensen is dangerous and that Hodza has "a dangerously dark side."
"Some of the things you did to this young lady are so horrifying you cannot capture it in words," Hudson told Hodza.
Defense attorneys said both defendants were abused as children. They agreed to lengthy sentences to avoid charges of kidnapping, which is punishable by up to life in prison.