CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — A judge sentenced a Missouri woman to consecutive life prison terms for sexually assaulting her infant daughter along with a California man she met online.
Attorneys for 22-year-old Tessa Vanvlerah of Ballwin failed to persuade St. Louis County Circuit Judge Colleen Dolan to sentence their client Monday only to probation. The lawyers argued that a psychological disorder was largely to blame for her crimes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Vanvlerah pleaded guilty in January to incest, statutory sodomy and statutory rape in the attacks against her daughter, who is 3 but who was 5 months old when the pair first attacked her.
The woman who fostered and then adopted the girl said that initially the girl would scream when anyone bathed her or changed her diaper. She still has night terrors and asks at each bedtime to make sure nobody else comes into the home.
Vanvlerah was arrested in 2010 following the arrest of 49-year-old Kenneth Kyle, a California State University East Bay professor, on child pornography charges. Along with hundreds of child porn images on Kyle’s computers, investigators found information that led them to the St. Louis area, where Kyle had visited Vanvlerah four times in five months since meeting online. During those visits, prosecutors say the pair had sex with the girl and each other at various hotels.
Kyle pleaded guilty to a federal child sexual abuse charge and was sentenced in March to 37½ years in prison.
Dr. Brooke Kraushaar, a forensic psychologist, testified at Vanvlerah’s sentencing hearing that Vanvlerah’s dependent-personality disorder caused her to participate in Kyle’s sexual fantasies, even though she knew sex acts involving the baby were wrong.
Dr. Kraushaar, who was hired by defense lawyers Brent Labovitz and Kevin Whiteley, described Vanvlerah as “a passive offender.” She said Vanvlerah was so afraid of being rejected by others that she also allowed Kyle to choke, burn and urinate on her.
But Assistant Prosecutor Kathi Alizadeh disputed the diagnosis, pointing out that Vanvlerah exercised free will in electronic communications with another man. Vanvlerah carved her nickname for the man, “Lord Nikon,” into her skin at his request, the prosecutor said, but drew the line at one of his suggestions involving bestiality.
Ms. Alizadeh said police learned that Vanvlerah and another man, from Avon, Mo., exchanged child porn and discussed plans for him to come to St. Louis to have sex with the infant, but it was never acted upon.
In 2008, when Vanvlerah was 18, a woman obtained a court order of protection against her, accusing her of seducing and having sex with the woman’s 16-year-old autistic son. Ms. Alizadeh said it resulted in Vanvlerah’s pregnancy.