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Jerry Ray Tyler, shackled in front of the podium, faced a federal judge Thursday and admitted he was guilty of molesting two young girls and sharing images of the crime on the Internet. He said he was sorry.
"I am forever, forever remorseful for what I've done," the 30-year-old Cleveland, Tenn., resident said.
His attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Anthony Martinez, said he believes Tyler is remorseful.
Even prosecutor Terra Bay said she thinks Tyler regretted what he did.
But the mother of the two girls whom Tyler molested didn't agree.
Two feet to Tyler's side, the mother told U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier how one of her daughters often hides under a table and cries. The other lashes out in anger, often breaking things. Both girls are under 10.
Tyler stared straight ahead.
"If you were remorseful, you would be able to look at me in the face," the mother said as she turned to Tyler.
"You can sit there for the rest of your life and that's going to be easier than what I've got to do," the woman said. "I've got to teach them and guide them and show them right from wrong."
Tyler will spend at least the next 33 years in federal prison and 20 years on supervised release afterward, according to the judge's sentence rendered Thursday.
The maximum sentence was life.
It is Times Free Press policy not to identify sex crime victims.
Collier said Tyler seemed to live two lives. He was a noncommissioned officer, serving eight years in the U.S. Air Force, before returning home to Cleveland.
But by July 2011 he had begun molesting the girls after having spent possibly a year downloading child pornography from the Internet.
Police uncovered Tyler by finding his computer identification number active on child porn websites. When they searched his Cleveland home last year, all they found to confiscate was a cellphone.
Officers were walking out the door when Tyler stopped them.
"You didn't get everything. I have hard drives in the shed in the backyard," Tyler told police.
That admission opened up a trove of pornographic images and the evidence that helped Bay bring a 27-count indictment against Tyler.
All but two counts were dismissed when Tyler agreed to plead guilty in February.
The hard drives contained many downloaded images. More tellingly, there were photos of the two girls with Tyler in his bedroom.
"Children are very fragile things," Collier told Tyler during the hearing. "And one of the ways we demonstrate love for children is to protect them."
Contact staff writer Todd South at 423-757-6347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...