At today's sentencing hearing, the court heard from witnesses and evidence from both the prosecution and the defense. Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp asked the court to impose the maximum possible punishment for these crimes, twenty years in prison.
At the conclusion of evidence, Cooke was sentenced to twenty years in prison with sixteen years suspended, meaning that she will have to serve an active sentence of four years within the custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections. Cooke was ordered to complete sixteen years of supervised probation following her release from active incarceration, will have to register as a sex offender, and was ordered to have no unsupervised contact with minors.
Evidence in the case showed that in late 2016, an investigator with the Virginia State Police received information that suspicious recordings were found at the residence previously occupied by Rhonda Cooke. Based on these recordings, officers from the Virginia State Police and the Wise County Sheriff's Office interviewed Rhonda Cooke. During the interview, Cooke admitted to inappropriate sexual conduct with a victim who was a minor at the time. After Cooke's arrest, a second victim came forward and complained that Cooke sexually molested him while she was babysitting him as a child. These offenses took place in the 1990's.
Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp said, "Sexual offenses against children are among the most vile and disgusting crimes that we see in court. These crimes took place nearly twenty-five years ago and thankfully there is no statute of limitations for a felony offense in Virginia. That means, no matter how long a crime of this nature was committed, with the evidence and bravery of victims who want to seek justice, we will prosecute. Working closely with law enforcement, we were able to overcome significant challenges to prosecuting a case this old and a case of this nature. We hope that today's sentence will bring closure and healing to the victims for the pain that Ms. Cooke caused them so long ago." Slemp declined further comment "out of respect for the victims' privacy."
Slemp did credit the law enforcement agencies and officers who worked the case and made a conviction possible: Virginia State Police Special Agents Jason Nichols, Ray Cox and the Virginia State Police, Chief James Lane and the Norton City Police Department, and Investigator Charles Curry with the Wise County Sheriff's Office.