There’s no disputing that Heather Koon videotaped herself raping four children in an Elyria, Ohio, day care before sending the footage to her boyfriend, a convicted sex offender.
The 27-year-old Koon pleaded guilty last week to four counts of rape among other charges, her attorney, Dan Wightman, told The Washington Post.
What is up for debate, Wightman said, is whether Koon should be considered a violent sexual offender.
Earning that designation at a future hearing would give the former child caretaker a mandatory life sentence without parole, he said.
“It’s very unusual to have a female charged as a sexual predator — almost unheard of,” Wightman said. “Psychologists tend to think she’s more along the lines of a battered woman. She was being influenced by her boyfriend.”
Authorities maintain that James Osborne instructed Koon to carry out the sexual assaults of children — including a 1- and 2-year-old — at ABC Kidz Child Care in March and April of 2013, according to the Chronicle-Telegram of Lorain County.
Osborne, 37, is currently serving eight years in prison for violating the guidelines of his 2011 probation, according to the Morning Journal.
According to the paper:
Koon was indicted for 40 offenses, while Osborne faced an 81-count indictment filed by the Lorain County grand jury. Each pleaded guilty to multiple charges, while some other charges were dismissed because legally they are allied offenses and by law the court could not impose sentences for them, according to the court ruling.
Court records cited by the paper say Koon and Osborne both pleaded not guilty to specifications that would designate them violent sexual predators and decided again to dispute those specifications in court.
Last week, Koon also pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material and single counts of tampering with evidence and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, the Morning Journal reported.
When interrogated by investigators in 2013, Osborne — classified as a Tier II sex offender at the time — admitted to sleeping at his girlfriend’s home and using her Internet, which was a violation of his parole, according to the Morning Journal.
Osborne’s failure to use his own address would eventually lead to his arrest. When deputies tracked him down at Koon’s home, he was sitting next to a computer and holding an iPhone, both of which had illicit images and video on them showing Koon abusing children, according to the Chronicle-Telegram.
Kreig Brusnahan, Osborne’s attorney, told the paper that his client feels remorse.
“My client can’t take back what happened and is sincerely regretful for what he has done,” he said.
Instead of being the monster many consider her, Koon — now several years removed from her horrific crime — is actually a pleasant person, her attorney told The Washington Post.
“If you’d meet her and talk to her, she’s a very engaging and charming young lady,” Wightman said. “Really, her personality doesn’t fit any of the things she’s charged with.”
At least one parent doesn’t care about Wightman’s accounts of Koon’s personality: At a recent hearing, the father of a girl who was 2 when Koon sexually assaulted her told the Chronicle-Telegram that he had no sympathy for the couple.
“Hopefully they get nothing less than life,” said the man, who was not identified by the paper. “I never realized creatures like this exist.”
Another woman, whose daughter was photographed by Koon as a 3-year-old, told the Chronicle-Telegram that her child does not recall the abuse but suffers from lingering effects.
“She doesn’t trust adults at all,” she said.
The mother added that she’s also struggling to comprehend how someone hired to protect children could turn out to be a predator.
“Then you learn there’s a sickness in the facility and someone preys on your child,” she said. “To me it’s not right.”