Crime

‘The wounds are still there.’ Juniata County man convicted of child rape receives sentence

Matthew Sheffer leaves as jury deliberates

Matthew Sheffer leaves the Centre County Courthouse as the jury deliberates on Oct. 24, 2018. Sheffer, 37, is accused of molesting an 11-year-old girl.
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Matthew Sheffer leaves the Centre County Courthouse as the jury deliberates on Oct. 24, 2018. Sheffer, 37, is accused of molesting an 11-year-old girl.

A family said they’ll be able to begin the healing process after the Juniata County man convicted of raping their 11-year-old daughter was sentenced Friday to state prison.

Senior Judge David Klementik sentenced 37-year-old Matthew Sheffer to 20-40 years in state prison and ordered he must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He received credit for 830 days already served.

“It’s been enough on us. It’s been too much; more than anybody should have to deal with,” the child’s father said. “The wounds are still there; they’ll always be there. They’ll never heal, but you just have to move forward and she’s just got to know that she’s got people around that are there for her and there’s outlets for her.”

State police at Rockview in January 2017 accused Sheffer of raping and sexually abusing the child between January-April 2016 in Millheim. Sheffer and Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramos maintained the charges stemmed from a custody battle.

Sheffer went to trial in August and October, but two juries announced they were unable to reach a verdict. A third jury convicted Sheffer in February of 10 counts of child rape, 14 counts of indecent assault, three counts of aggravated indecent assault and one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

Klementik, who presided over all three trials in which the child testified, said it was obvious “some horror consumed her.”

“It was sickening to hear how you manipulated her. ... You have robbed the child of her childhood,” Klementik said. “It’s not unreasonable to believe that you would find another child to prey on.”

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Matthew Sheffer arrives for his first trial on Aug. 15, 2018 at the Centre County Courthouse. Phoebe Sheehan psheehan@centredaily.com

Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw commended Klementik for his sentence, and also acknowledged the child’s fortitude.

“It was her courage, her perseverance and her strength that enabled justice to be achieved in this case,” McGraw said. “All victims of sexual assault should stand encouraged by her example, and they should rest assured that their voices will be heard.”

Victim advocate Faith Schindler read Klementik a letter on behalf of the child’s stepmother prior to Sheffer’s sentence being announced. She called Sheffer a “monster” and asked, “After all of this, how can you call yourself a human being?”

In a phone conversation after the sentence was announced, the child’s mother said the legal proceedings were “a struggle,” but felt that justice was served.

Klementik announced the sentence before asking Sheffer for comment, but Sheffer later declined when given the opportunity. Ramos did not respond to request for comment about the sentence or potential appeals.

“As much as you want to just tear that person apart, you can’t. You let the courts do it and hope that it works out in your favor and, in this case, it did,” the child’s father said. “She told the truth, and because of that, she gained strength confronting a horrible, horrible person that just preyed on her. I hope she can set an example for any child, any person that goes through anything horrific like that. I hope that they can draw some strength from her.”

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.
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