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Man in Bucks County sex case commits suicide

9-25-2007 Pennsylvania

A former substitute teacher awaiting sentencing for sexually assaulting two teenage girls has committed suicide, authorities said.

Jeffrey Anderson, 23, of Philadelphia, asphyxiated himself with a gas stove in a closed room on Saturday, authorities said.

His parents, who had traveled to Philadelphia with other family members to spend a week with Anderson before his sentencing, found his body, said his defense attorney Sara Webster.

Anderson was to be sentenced Friday in Bucks County Court, and faced a minium sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.

Webster said Anderson was distraught about what he had done and feared spending at least the next decade of his life behind bars.

''He felt horrible about what he did,'' Webster said Tuesday. ''He spent a week in Bucks County Prison and he got a taste of how sex offenders are treated in prison. They are the lowest of the low.''

Anderson pleaded guilty in August to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault and related charges. He admitted engaging in sex acts with two girls, ages 14 and 15, who were students at Tohickon Middle School in Plumstead Township.

The sex was not forced, but both victims were legally below the age of consent.

If Anderson had committed his crime before February, when state law increased the mandatory minimum from five to 10 years in prison, he would have been facing less time behind bars, she said.

''Mandatory sentencing takes [discretion] away from the judge,'' Webster said. ''It says this is what we think in all cases, whether [it's] a 23-year-old first offender or 40-year-old repeat offender. Forcible rape would be the same sentence.''

But First Assistant District Attorney David Zellis said any effort to portray Anderson as a victim, even of mandatory sentencing laws, was unjust.

''Nobody wanted this to be the way this ended up,'' Zellis said Tuesday. ''This isn't good for the real victims in this case to have to deal with this. It's not good for the community. We were prepared to go to the sentencing and settle for whatever the judge handed down.''

Zellis said a suicide note Anderson left said nothing about fearing a long prison term, only remorse for his actions. And, he added, 10 to 20 years in prison would not have been too harsh a sentence.

Anderson acted deliberately over several weeks, Zellis said. It was not a case of a one-time mistake.

''What he did is a horrific thing for these 14- and 15-year-olds to bear and for their families to have to pick up the pieces from for many years to come,'' Zellis said.

Anderson began communicating with the girls in April using text messaging, instant messaging and the Internet site Facebook.

The girls' parents uncovered instant messages between Anderson and the two girls using computer software and notified police.

Anderson was arrested May 7, and confessed to kissing the two girls in a classroom at the middle school and engaging in sex acts with the girls at one of their homes.

The Central Bucks School District fired Anderson after his arrest. He also was dismissed by the Warrington Swim Team, where he had been a coach.

Webster said parents of some of the children he coached were prepared to speak on Anderson's behalf at the sentencing. ..more.. by Scott Kraus | Of The Morning Call

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