A US airman has been jailed for raping a 12-year-old autistic girl he met on Snapchat while stationed in the UK.
Although he knows the age of the victim, Dennis Rocha, 18, shot their sexual conversation and arranged to pick her up the next day. He traveled 140 miles from his base at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk to meet the victim in Wiltshire in April this year.
Rocha of Beck Row, Mildenhall, Suffolk, picked up the girl from her home and took her to a secluded location, where the couple had sex in their car.
Swindon Crown Court yesterday heard the sexual activity was consensual and no force was used.
At the time, the girl told police she regretted it and felt angry with herself. Her mother said her daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was just four – and to this day struggles to cope.
American aviator Dennis Rocha, 18, has been jailed for raping a 12-year-old autistic girl he met on Snapchat while stationed in the UK
She said her daughter had communication difficulties, couldn’t talk to strangers, couldn’t make eye contact, couldn’t socialize with friends and couldn’t cope with mainstream upbringing.
The girl told police she was sorry it affected other people, including her mother, who she said wanted her to be older and in love when she lost her virginity.
Rocha was jailed for six years and eight months – and imposed a one-year license extension, on two counts of raping a child under 13.
Chris Smyth, prosecuting, said that during the encounter, which lasted about an hour, the couple had numerous sexual encounters. On one occasion the condom slipped off.
In her victim’s personal statement provided to police at the time, the girl said: “I’m afraid I’m pregnant and won’t find out until next week.”
Sentencing Judge James Townsend said: “You had plenty of opportunity to think twice about what you were doing, but you persisted.
“You knew she was much younger than you and visibly vulnerable. The fact that she accepted what was happening is not a mitigation because of her age.
The accused was issued an indefinite sexual abuse prevention order and must sign the sex offender register upon release. He was also placed on the DBS banned list.
The Californian US Air Force aviator was described as a ‘kind-hearted and gentle young man’ in several character references provided to the court, according to defense attorney Sam Jones.
“It wasn’t until he got back to base that the reality of what he had done was realised,” he said.
At Swindon Crown Court (pictured) 18-year-old Dennis Rocha was sentenced to six years and eight months in jail yesterday
He added that Rocha was “genuinely remorseful for his actions” and told Judge Townsend that his victim’s consent to the sexual activity had “some significance”.
Mr Jones asked the court to consider his client’s youth, inexperience, naivety and immaturity – coupled with his own sexual inexperience and the loneliness of being away from home.
Addressing the court on a video link from Bullingdon Jail, Rocha said: “First of all I just want to apologize to the family and anyone else I have hurt because of this incident .”
“I wish this never happened…and I’m so sorry, I hope you can forgive me and have mercy on me.”
DC Investigator Amanda Lord, from the Child Abuse Investigation Team, said: ‘Rocha brought about this encounter with the victim when she knew she was underage.
“He knew what he was doing was illegal and had ample opportunity to cease all contact with the victim, but continued and used it for his own gain.
“We take offenses like these extremely seriously and will always seek to protect children from predators like Rocha and to ensure that sex offenders are brought to justice.
“I would also like to commend the victim for his bravery and courage in speaking to us.”