BENTONVILLE -- A Rogers man will most likely spend the remainder of his life in prison.
Donald Thatcher, 72, was sentenced Thursday to 60 years in prison for raping and sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl. It took a jury about 90 minutes to return with the guilty verdicts.
The girl, who is now 8 years old, testified at the trial. Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren granted a prosecutor's request to allow the girl to have a support dog with her while she testified.
The girl was interviewed in June 2020 at the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County where she was able to provide details of being sexually abused by Thatcher, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Jurors recommended Thatcher serve 40 years in prison for rape and 20 years for sexual assault. The panel recommended the sentences be served consecutively. Karren followed the jury's recommendation.
Thatcher will have to serve at least 31 years in prison before he's eligible for parole.
Sarah Phillips, deputy prosecutor, told jurors they can convict Thatcher on the testimony from a single witness. She said the male DNA found in the girl's body corroborates her testimony about being abused by Thatcher.
The DNA sample was too small and couldn't be identified as Thatcher's.
Joseph Williams, one of Thatcher's attorneys, told jurors the entire case against his client screams reasonable doubt. He said there was no physical evidence of rape or sexual assault.
Thatcher's wife, Kim, urged the jury to have mercy on her husband.
"He's a good man," she said. "He served in the Marines. I don't want him to die in jail."
She told jurors her husband has a bad heart and he could have a stroke.
"I love my best friend ... my husband," she said.
Williams also asked jurors to have mercy for his client. He told the panel Thatcher is in very poor health and the minimum 25-year sentence for the rape conviction is a life sentence for his client.
Phillips asked jurors to recommend a sentence for Thatcher that they think he deserves.
"Please consider that he showed her no mercy," Phillips said of the victim.
The judge gave Thatcher a chance to speak at the sentencing.
Thatcher said he felt sorry for his wife and then said he believes there were misstatements by the prosecutors.
Karren told Thatcher he had not heard any remorse from him.
"Let's go ahead and get him in cuffs and get him out of here," Karren said before Thatcher was taken from the courtroom to be transported to the Benton County Jail.
Nathan Smith, Benton County's prosecuting attorney, said the 60-year sentence is due to the hard work of Phillips, Tyler Hawkins, deputy prosecutor, investigators with the Benton County Sheriff's Office and the girl who had the courage to testify against Thatcher.
"I am grateful to 14th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney David Ethredge for allowing us to borrow their courthouse dog to help our victim with the ordeal of testifying," Smith said. "The jury gave a just sentence for the victimization of a defenseless child and my hope is that this verdict will help her close this chapter in her life."