An e derly Augusta man who lured little girls to his home with gifts and candy and then sexually molested them received a five-year prison sentence Thursday.
William Canady, 76, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to five counts child molestation. Chief Judge William M. Fleming Jr. sentenced him to five years in prison, followed by five years on probation. He faced a possible sentence of five to 20 years on each count.
Parents and grandparents present for Thursday's hearing said afterward that they were satisfied with the sentence because at Mr. Canady's age, they didn't believe he had that much longer to live.
The victims' family members said Thursday that they were shocked when they first learned what Mr. Canady had done. He had lived in the south Augusta neighborhood for at least 13 years and was considered a best friend to the grandparents of one victim. "When I found out, I couldn't believe it," said one grandfather. Mr. Canady offered friendship and help with neighborhood children, taking them to school or on errands and constantly buying treats and gifts, the man said. "We kept getting on him about it (buying gifts for the children). His excuse was he didn't have a granddaughter of his own."
Four years ago one young child complained about Mr. Canady touching her, but after all the other children were questioned and denied any inappropriate behavior, the adults thought she misunderstood what had happened.
When another little girl told her mother that Mr. Canady fondled her last fall, however, parents and grandparents learned from other children that Mr. Canady had threatened to hurt their family members if they told what had happened, the grandfather said.
Mr. Canady was arrested Aug. 4 and confessed to police that he had fondled several young girls, between 6 and 13 years of age. Defense attorney Doug Flanagan asked Judge Fleming for leniency, citing Mr. Canady's age, 21 years of military service and lack of any prior criminal conviction.