Molester on longest prison term dies

December 15, 2018
Michael Daniel Vega, 50, of Huntington, is sentenced Jan. 18 by Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell to 440 to 1,425 years in prison after he was convicted of sexually assaulting and abusing minor girls.

HUNTINGTON — A Huntington man serving the longest prison sentence in West Virginia history for molesting three young girls has died less than a year after his sentence was handed down in Cabell County.

Michael Daniel Vega, 50, died Wednesday after complications from a medical episode, according to Lawrence Messina, director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

Vega, who had been housed at Mount Olive Correctional Center, had been sentenced in January by Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell to serve 400 to 1,425 years in prison, plus an additional 50 years of supervised release. He was also fined $240,000.

Messina said Vega was taken to a hospital Sunday after suffering a medical episode that included complaints of extreme dizziness. He died in the hospital Wednesday afternoon. The state is awaiting further information from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner at this time, he said.

Assistant prosecutor Joe Fincham, who prosecuted the case, said he hopes his victims and family can now find peace.

“My job was to see that justice was served by making sure (Vega) died in prison,” he said. “All the justice it was in my power to give his victims has now been served. Now he faces a final justice far beyond that which I could give.”

A Cabell jury convicted Vega in November 2017 of 20 counts of sexual abuse by a person in position of trust, seven counts of first-degree sexual assault and 13 counts of first-degree sexual abuse. He had also been sentenced to serve a five-to 25-year prison sentence, with 40 years of post-release supervision, in Wayne County for a similar charge.

The convictions were the result of five young girls who stepped forward in 2016 accusing Vega of molesting them together and separately years ago. They said he would assault them at his home and business and then offer cellphones, clothing and other items as rewards.

Two of those cases remained pending in Cabell County at the time of Vega’s death.

Vega served a little more than two years of his sentence from the time of his 2016 arrest to his death this month.

At his January sentencing, Vega’s attorney, Tim Rosinsky, said his client would most likely suffer “a slow and painful death” because he stopped taking medical treatment for terminal cancer in December 2017. Vega experienced a type of renal disease at the end of his life and, prior to ending treatment, attended several weekly dialysis appointments during his period of incarceration.

The allegations against Vega started in 2016 when an employee at an Ona group home noticed a girl break down during a family visit. Meetings with West Virginia state troopers led to the disclosure of allegations against Vega by five different females.

At the time of their rapes, the Cabell County victims who testified at his trial were 10 and 11.

Around 2011, the girls had been friends with a child Vega knew and who lived at the same Westmoreland apartment complex as they did. Vega would take the girls to the park, out to eat and other places, the victims said, and they would also spend time at his apartment on 2nd Street in Huntington.

While having little connection to one another in the years since the attacks, the girls’ stories told at trial were similar in nature, which included a “tickle” game and sexually driven driving lessons.

The California native continuously declared his innocence throughout progression of the cases. In turning down a plea offer prior to trial that would have a penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison, Vega told Farrell he would not take the offer because he was not guilty.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

Update hourly