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story.lead_photo.caption Lawrence Ralston

BENTONVILLE -- A judge had strong words Wednesday for a man convicted of sexually abusing two boys.

A jury found Lawrence Ralston, 70, of Rogers guilty of rape and sexual assault. Two boys testified during the trial Ralston abused them years earlier.

"I believe there is a place in hell for people who abuse children in the manner that you have done," Circuit Judge Robin Green told Ralston during sentencing proceedings.

Ralston declined an opportunity to address the court.

The jury listened to testimony Tuesday and began deliberation Wednesday morning. It took the six men and six women two and a half hours to decide on a verdict.

The panel later recommended Ralston serve 30 years in prison for the rape and 20 years for the sexual assault, with the sentences to be served consecutively.

The judge followed the recommendations. Ralston must serve at least 26 years in prison before he'll be eligible for parole.

"I am pleased the jury imposed a 50-year sentence for the defendant's sexual abuse of two boys." Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith said. "This was a despicable crime and the jury was right to impose a severe penalty that will keep the defendant in prison for the rest of his life."

A 17-year-old boy said Ralston touched him inappropriately and performed a sex act on him when he was 9 years old. The boy told jurors Ralston warned him not to tell anyone or he would hurt him and his mother.

A 14-year-old boy said Ralston touched him inappropriately when he was 6 years old.

Nick Torkelson, a former Rogers police officer, said he encountered Ralston several years ago when he stopped him for a complaint of a man driving and masturbating.

Torkelson said Ralston told him he was sexually frustrated and missed his two boys.

Ralston testified on his own behalf, but it wasn't from the witness stand. Deputies have been using a wheelchair to take Ralston in and out of the courtroom and he sat in a chair in front of the jury.

Janette McKinney, one of Ralston's attorneys, asked Ralston if he ever touched the younger boy in an inappropriate manner.

"Absolutely, swear to God, no," Ralston replied.

He also adamantly denied ever having any sexual contact with the older boy.

The rape charge involves the older boy while the sexual assault charge concerns the younger one.

Ralston will be required to register as a sex offender if he is released from jail.

The judge ordered Ralston not to have any contact with the two boys and told him not to have unsupervised contact with any minor.

Ralston received 455 days of jail credit for the time he spent in the Benton County Jail awaiting his trial.

He must also pay $695 in court associated costs.

NW News on 12/21/2017

Print Headline: Rogers man sentenced to 50 years in prison

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