By Nancy Drury Duncan –
Roy Kellam James, 78, of Exmore, was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison for the rape and incest of his daughter between 1978 and 1989. James was originally charged with seven counts of sexual abuse of a child but pleaded guilty last year to child rape and incest in a plea agreement with the commonwealth.
His daughter’s first memory of abuse occurred when she was only 4 years old. When she was 9, he began having her perform oral sex upon him and having vaginal sex with her. He engaged in a full gamut of sexual activities with the child until she was 15 when the girl came to realize the relationship she had with her father was not normal, Commonwealth’s Attorney Beverly Leatherbury told the court at Monday’s sentencing. She said the girl returned to her mother after a weekend with her father knowing how different her world was from that of the other girls in her Christian school.
At age 14, she disclosed the sexual abuse to the headmaster of her school and to the defendant’s pastor, but was not believed, Leatherbury said. She said the girl enrolled in a Christian therapy group for abused adolescent girls at age 16. There, she was believed and discussed what had happened to her with the group. In a talk to the group, her mother, who was there, learned for the first time the depth of the abuse.
At the urging of her therapist, the victim saw James one final time when she confronted him about what he had done. “She never went to law enforcement back in the ’80s and ’90s,” said Leatherbury. “She was a teenager. Her story had been rejected by the headmaster and the pastor. Someone told her it was too late, that there was a statute of limitations.”
In February 2020, Exmore Chief of Police Angelo DiMartino received complaints about James’ behavior: Royal Farms asked the police to serve a notice not to trespass on Royal Farms property to James. There were numerous reports of James hanging around there ogling female customers. There were others saying he put “creepy stuff” on Facebook. Leatherbury said DiMartino told her about it but, while it was “creepy,” it did not rise to the level of a crime.
DiMartino persisted in his investigation of James. He learned James had a daughter who had visited the Shore every other weekend for years but suddenly stopped coming. He located the woman and, after some reluctance, she recounted the horrors of her childhood, beginning at the age of 4 and continuing until she was almost 15. These were crimes and there was no statute of limitations.
James was arrested and charged with seven felonies. In July 2021, he signed a plea agreement admitting to the rape of his daughter and incest in exchange for the dismissal of the five remaining felonies. He later attempted to recant his pleas of guilt and denied his horrendous actions, said Leatherbury.
The daughter read a victim impact statement at Monday’s sentencing hearing. She spoke directly to her father. “Every time you touched me and violated every inch of my 4-year-old body through the age of 15, you took my sense of self and my security as a child and shattered me into a million pieces. I have been left, over the last 44 years, to do my best just to survive and live in a world that still feels foreign to me.”
In her closing remarks to the court, Leatherbury said, “This is a woman who has worked since age 16 to reconstruct her fragmented self, piece by piece, trying to reassemble a whole woman out of the child shattered by the defendant’s incestuous abuse. Today is about justice for her.”
Judge W. Revell Lewis III sentenced James to life in prison with all but 15 years suspended for rape and 20 years with all but five years and 10 months suspended for incest. Leatherbury said James could be eligible for geriatric parole after serving at least five years of his sentence.