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Man who had sex with O.C. girl gets 9 years

The mother of the teen met online by the Texas resident tells of the pain caused by her suicide.

June 19, 2007|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

Staring down at the person she blames for her teenage daughter's suicide, Danielle Helms testified Monday about the limitless pain and loss that she and her family have suffered at the hands of the Texas man, who enticed her daughter over the Internet and traveled to California for illicit sex.

A federal judge sentenced Kiley Ryan Bowers, 29, to nearly nine years in prison for having illegal sex with 15-year-old Kristin Helms of Lake Forest and transmitting indecent pictures of her over the Internet.

"We hold you 100% responsible for the serious clinical depression that besieged and stole the life of our precious Kristin," Danielle Helms said as her husband, Robin, and son, Ryan, stood beside her in a Santa Ana courtroom.

"She was only 15 years old, just a child.... You robbed us of our cherished daughter and permanently changed our lives."

Bowers waived his right to speak at the hearing.

His parents, brother and sister, who traveled from out of state for the sentencing hearing, declined to comment.

Federal public defenders representing Bowers said he was extremely remorseful and devastated when he learned that Kristin Helms had taken her life after his arrest.

"He feels very bad about what happened," said federal defender Craig Wilke. "Certainly, he took responsibility for what happened."

Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Bowers was also ordered to serve six years of supervised release after completing his prison term. In exchange, the government dismissed four charges related to images of Kristin Helms that were sent over the Internet.

U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford said he was satisfied that the stipulated sentence addressed the serious nature of the crimes, the remorsefulness of the defendant and the desire of the Helmses for closure. His voice began cracking as he turned to them during his closing remarks.

"I can't imagine the pain you're going through," he told the family.

Kristin Helms was 14 when she met Bowers online in 2005, during the summer before her freshman year at El Toro High School in Lake Forest.

He helped her create a profile on MySpace.com, but her parents shut it down after they saw his picture. They also took away her computer and suspended her Internet privileges.

Kristin continued to contact him by phone and on school computers. In December 2005, Bowers traveled from Texas to Orange County to have sex with her. He ended the relationship in May 2006 and was arrested a month later. Kristin killed herself in July. According to the plea agreement, she left a note partially blaming Bowers.

Wilke and fellow federal defender Anne Hwang told the judge that Bowers thought the girl was 17, which in Texas would not have been a crime because 17 is the age of consent, not 18 as in California.

They were interrupted by an objection from Assistant U.S. Atty. Kenneth Julian, the lead prosecutor. He argued that the age Bowers thought Kristin Helms to be was a matter of dispute and inappropriate to state as fact in the courtroom.

Afterward, Wilke said the defense has tried to be sensitive to the family. "I don't think all the facts have come out," he said. "The young woman's suicide surely complicated this case."

christine.hanley@latimes.com

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