Former deputy who preyed on young girls sentenced to 40 years as serial sexual predator

A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced Friday to 40 years in prison for sexually abusing four young girls.

Sean Essex, 53, a deputy for more than 22 years until his arrest in 2022, was sentenced by Judge George G. Lomeli immediately after he pleaded no contest to repeatedly sexually abusing the girls, whose ages ranged from 4 to 13.

The veteran deputy was taken into custody and charged in 2022 after investigators documented repeated sexual abuse of the three young daughters of a woman Essex was dating. Essex was also charged with abusing a fourth girl in 2006. Prosecutors had learned of that allegation in 2006 but did not charge him at the time.

“The horrific sexual abuse that Mr. Essex inflicted on these young victims has not only violated his oath as a law enforcement officer to protect and serve the community, but also has left these children with life-long trauma,” Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in announcing the sentencing. “Children have an inviolate right to safety and protection. The victims have shown tremendous courage in coming forward to speak about their abuse at the hands of Mr. Essex."

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Essex pleaded no contest to three counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14 and one count of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14. In addition, he admitted to taking advantage of a position of trust in the commission of the crime and that one victim was especially vulnerable, according to prosecutors.

At the time of his initial arrest by his department's internal affairs and special victims unit in April 2022, Essex was assigned to the sheriff's training bureau. He was released on bond but rearrested in August 2022 and has remained behind bars since then, jail records show.

The original 33-count indictment filed in 2022 included the charges of sexual abuse against the sisters and the girl he abused in 2006, which the district attorney's office declined to prosecute at the time.

According to Spencer Lucas, an attorney for the sisters and their family, Essex was in a romantic relationship with the mother of his victims at one point. According to the indictment, he was living with the girls when he sexually abused two of them.

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One of the sisters was younger than 10 at the time, prosecutors said, and the two others were younger than 14. Essex groomed the girls and remained close to them even after he and their mother broke up, according to Lucas.

"He would pick up the girls individually in his L.A. County sheriff's patrol vehicle, and he would take the girls and he would abuse them in the patrol car," Lucas told The Times after the indictment. Lucas said some of the abuse occurred in a Sheriff's Department parking lot.

On Friday, Lomeli ordered Essex to pay restitution to the victims in an amount that the court will determine.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.