WILMINGTON — Convicted sex offender Douglas Nelson Edwards will spend the rest of his natural life in prison after being sentenced to 80-110 years in prison by Judge Phyllis Gorham in New Hanover County Superior Court Thursday.
A jury Wednesday convicted Edwards of multiple crimes, including attempted first degree murder, first degree kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to inflict serious harm and statutory sexual offense with a child by an adult, in relation to the kidnapping and sexual assault of a 6-year-old girl last September.
In what was described as a “heinous, cruel, and atrocious” act, Edwards kidnapped the child from her front porch in “broad daylight,” sticking her on his moped before fleeing to a secluded area off River Road.
There, he took her into the woods, chaining her to a tree before sexually assaulting her, and leaving her for dead.
Prior to the sentencing, defense Attorney Kenneth Hatcher made a final plea to the judge to give Edwards “some hope,” arguing that “Mr. Edwards never had a chance, and that is not his fault,” due to a “broken” childhood home.
While they did not argue that this should take away responsibility for these “horrible crimes,” they claim he was never set up to succeed in the first place.
In response, Assistant District Attorney Lance Oehrlein doubled down for the prosecution.
“The state does not want this defendant to have any hope, whatsoever, of ever getting out of jail,” he said. “This is every parents worst nightmare. He has not said one thing during this trial to give him any benefit of the doubt.”
After being found guilty by the jury Wednesday, Edwards allegedly attempted to take his own life in his jail cell last night. Following his sentencing, the defense team plead that he be given mental health care through the North Carolina Department of Corrections, the only consolation he would have going forward.
‘Every parents worst nightmare’
Just before judgement was handed down, the victim’s mother, fighting back tears, asked to make a statement to the court, one that moved nearly every individual in the packed room to tears.
“First of all, I’d like to thank god, and each and everyone of you, for having done justice for our little one,” she said through a translator. “It is very difficult, having to go through all of this, leaving to go out to play with children outside, and then in one instance, to not be able to find her, and to not know what happened.”
“It’s very difficult to me, and I imagine for you as well, as parents. For us, our children are our most prized, and cherished possessions that god has given us. It is so, so, difficult to know somebody snatched that from you,” she said.
At this point, she broke down sobbing, but fought through the tears to continue.
“Thank you for having done justice, it’s not fair for men such as this to be out free, and to be out doing such malicious evil things with such young children, defenseless children who cannot defend themselves,” she said. “I hope that no other family, and none of you here ever have to go through something so horrible. Thank you to every one of the members here today. Because, I know that god has moved your hearts as well. Just thank you to everyone.”
District Attorney Ben David described this case as a “horror story,” saying this trial will be used as a precedent in the future, and that the state will continue to seek “maximum penalties” against sex offenders in the future.
David went on to thank the jurors, his prosecution team, law enforcement, first responders, the citizens of New Hanover County, and the local media for their help in bringing this criminal to justice.