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Man Sentenced to Life in Prison in Kidnapping of Norfolk, Neb., Girl

April 26, 1991

MADISON, Neb. (AP) _ A man convicted of kidnapping a girl after her mother forced a grand jury investigation into the case was sentenced today to life in prison.

″I want to state for the record that I am not guilty, but I do understand and respect what the court must do,″ David Phelps said just before he was sentenced in Madison County District Court.

Phelps, 27, was convicted March 20 on a charge of kidnapping Jill Cutshall, then 9, with the intent of sexually molesting her.

The girl, who was last sitting on the steps of her baby sitter’s home nearly four years ago, has never been found.

District Judge Richard Garden said that since Jill was not released alive or unharmed, state law required him to sentence Phelps to life as well as order him to pay the costs of prosecution.

″He’s getting less than what he deserves, but I’ll take this for now,″ said Jill’s mother, Joyce Cutshall, adding that she wanted assurance that he would serve life without parole. Under state law, no one with a life sentence is eligible for parole unless a separate pardons board reduces the sentence to a specific number of years.

The judge also said a presentence investigation indicated Phelps was not a mentally disordered sex offender. Under Nebraska law, anyone convicted of a sex crime must undergo evaluation to determine whether they are mentally disordered and need treatment.

Phelps, who was arrested June 20 in Perry, Iowa, showed no apparent emotion as he was sentenced.

Defense attorney David Domina has said he will appeal the case to the Nebraska Supreme Court. Domina said a videotaped statement that Phelps later recanted should not have been admitted as evidence at the trial.

In the statement, which he later said was a lie concocted under threats from a private investigator, Phelps accused a second man of participating in Jill’s abduction and sexual molestation.

Phelps was tried after Mrs. Cutshall gathered enough petition signatures to force a grand jury investigation under a little-used provision of state law. She said at the time she was frustrated by the lack of police progress in the case.

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