- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 9, 2017

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) - A man who admitted sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl and bludgeoning and stabbing her mother to death in front of her children is now headed to New Jersey state prison.

Warren County prosecutors say 42-year-old Ralph Atkinson received a 26-year sentence on Tuesday. He had pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault of a child.

The charges stem from an attack at the woman’s Washington Township home in May 2014.

Prosecutors say they reluctantly agreed to the plea deal to spare the young victim from having to testify about the sex assaults and her mother’s death. The woman had been dating Atkinson at the time she was killed.

Atkinson initially was charged with first-degree murder in the woman’s slaying and could have faced life in prison.


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