A Forest Grove man referred to as “the boogeyman” by a Washington County judge was sentenced Tuesday to 52½ years in prison for sexually abusing at least five children since 2010.
The sentencing was the culmination of a series of sexual abuse investigations involving Steven Rockett since 1998. Every case was dropped or went nowhere until August 2013, when the three girls he took in while their parents struggled with homelessness came forward about their abuse.
On Tuesday, their mother Cheryl Schneider paused repeatedly to collect herself as she tearfully recounted coming to grips with how Rockett had sexually abused and took inappropriate photos of her daughters.
One girl, now 17, struggles with anxiety and panic attacks, Schneider said in Washington County Circuit Court. Another daughter, now 16, has trouble handling her anger and male authority figures.
“I thought he was family. I thought he was a friend, and I put my children there,” Schneider said. She asked Judge Andrew Erwin to ensure that Rockett never be allowed near children again.
“I feel like I gave my babies to a predator and I don’t want this to happen to anybody else.”
Rockett was found guilty by a jury on March 11 of first-degree sexual abuse, using a child in display of sexual conduct, second-degree rape and second-degree sodomy in connection with the abuse of the three sisters. The girls were 8, 13 and 14 when Rockett was arrested in 2013, said Dustin Staten, a Washington County deputy district attorney.
Staten described Rockett, who is divorced with young children of his own, as a longtime predator who targeted kids from struggling families. Prosecutors requested a prison sentence of nearly 65 years; Rockett’s attorneys asked for 25 years.
Rockett also was sentenced Tuesday for using a hidden camera in his bathroom to photograph two other children while they were showering in 2012. A mother for one of the male victims also spoke in court, referred to Rockett as a former trusted friend and asked Erwin to “give him everything he deserves, which is the rest of his life in prison.”
Rockett pleaded guilty Feb. 20 to invasion of privacy and attempted using a child in display of sexual conduct related to the hidden camera incidents but attempted to withdraw that plea in court on Tuesday. The judge denied the request.
Rockett made no public statements in court, other than to mention that he meant to talk about the motion. His attorney, Andrew Coit, said Rockett plans to appeal the trial verdict and would not discuss any aspect of the case publicly because of the planned appeal.
Rockett is scheduled to go to trial again in June, this time on federal charges. He is accused of producing child pornography, international travel with intent to engage in sex with a minor, and other sexual abuse charges involving children in the Philippines, court records show.
Rockett has pleaded not guilty to the federal accusations. It is not yet clear whether he will remain in state or federal custody pending the trial.
On Tuesday, Erwin said the girls showed a lot of strength in testifying against Rockett and expressed confidence that they would be able to through the trauma they endured.