Man convicted in Red Roof case sentenced to 24 years
For the first time in over a year, victims of one incident at the Woodbury Red Roof Inn got to publicly express how one man’s actions terrorized the lives of their young daughters and their families.
A handful of mothers of the teenagers sexually assaulted by Demetrius Santreell Ballinger as he held them and others hostage at gunpoint during a standoff at the motel last August, asked for tough sentencing measures Monday, Oct. 7, in statements they submitted to Washington County District Court.
Judge Ellen Maas sentenced Ballinger, 26, to a total of 36 years, of which he'll spend at least 24 years in prison and the rest on supervised release with good behavior. Ballinger pleaded guilty to five counts of attempted murder and rape charges in June for the Aug. 12, 2012 incident. He was also ordered to register as a predatory sex offender and will be on probation for life.
Ballinger’s sentence included punishment for shooting hostage Mark E. Henderson, who later died when Woodbury police shot him as he fled out of the room as they mistook for a suspect. A grand jury later cleared the officers of wrongdoing.
Monday’s hearing was filled with victims and their families who sobbed throughout the entire hearing when Washington County prosecutor Siv Yurichuk read the statements.
One mother said her daughter was unable to put her feelings on paper. The 16-year-old has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and she hasn’t been able to recover from “this bizarre group rape.”
“She was in survival mode for five hours, naked in the bathtub,” the statement read. “Your honor, this is a letter as a mother I never thought I’d have to write.”
Mothers said they feared Ballinger would get out and hurt other young girls the way he hurt their daughters. One mom said the traumatic incident haunts her 16-year-old daughter every day, especially during the repeated clinic visits she had to make for numerous testing following the rape.
“That’s very damaging to a young person’s mind,” she said in the statement.
Another said her daughter lost faith, she’s unable to trust people and she fears a similar incident is happening every time she hears police sirens on the streets.
“My child endured a night of hell,” one mother wrote. “She sees him everywhere – the bus, the mall, the movies.”
Henderson’s family also submitted a letter in which they said the incident scarred them forever. They said their son did not deserve to die as he attempted to escape the situation.
“The family continues to pray for your soul,” they told Ballinger in a statement.
Victims called Ballinger selfish. One said she was sickened to read the 911 transcript where he seemed to want complete control of the situation in a “narcissistic meltdown.”
“I was a selfish, irresponsible coward,” he said in court Monday. “As hard for me to sit here and admit that, it’s true.”
When given the opportunity to speak, Ballinger paused for a long moment before he began apologizing to the victims and their families.
When Maas explained the lifetime parole condition of the sentence and said that he’ll never be left unsupervised, Ballinger interrupted and asked for a more severe punishment.
“Can you take my plea back and just give me a life sentence, ma’am,” he said.
But his attorneys said that was just his way of expressing remorse and that he understood the punishment Maas was imposing as part of an agreement reached between the defense and prosecutors.
Maas also ordered Ballinger to pay restitution during his time in prison. The final amount has not been set, giving the victims time to submit additional claims.
“I was deeply moved by the powerful remarks of these mothers,” Maas said, adding that the severity of the crimes Ballinger committed call for severe punishment and lifetime parole.
One mother said sending Ballinger to prison will leave society with “one less monster.”
Another said the girls raped on that August night have formed a tight bond that’s helping them heal from the tragic incident.
“My daughter may be a victim, but she’s also a survivor,” she said in a statement. “All these girls are survivors.”