It was the second time in recent weeks that an accused child molester pleaded guilty to charges rather than face the possibility of life in prison.
Lhermine’s trial was set to begin Aug. 31. Instead, jurors at the South County Courthouse were excused after learning that Lhermine, 22, a former YMCA of Silicon Valley employee, agreed to the plea deal Aug. 29 in light of new DNA evidence.
“It was a strong case as it was, and then there was additional DNA work that basically pushed him over the edge,” Deputy District Attorney Tim McInerny said. “It was a mixture of one of the victim’s DNA inside his clothing mixed with his own.”
Lhermine pleaded guilty to eight counts of varying crimes involving four young female victims, ages 3, 5, 6 and 7, and a 17-year-old female. He will serve six consecutive 10-year sentences and must serve 85 percent of that term, according to McInerny.
“Anytime somebody says they are willing to plead guilty to 60 years, it spares the victims and their families the incredible pain of having to come to court and testify,” McInerny said. “We’re talking about four little girls who are very small and it was very traumatic.”
Lhermine will not be eligible for release until he is well into his 70s, McInerny said.
“I think it was a win-win situation for the families, for the community,” he added. “Obviously, it protects the community for 50-plus years. There’s a pedophile that’s not going to be [out in the community].”
Lhermine pleaded guilty to six counts of lewd or lascivious act on a child by force, violence, duress, menace and fear; one count of possessing/controlling matter depicting person under age 18 engaging in or simulating sexual conduct; and one count of employing, persuading or inducing a minor’s involvement in modeling, posing or performing sexual conduct.
As part of the plea agreement, one count of oral copulation or sexual penetration with a child 10 years of age or younger was dropped.
“There had always been very strong forensic evidence in terms of cellphone, photographs and web searches and other data that the crime lab had analyzed,” McInerny said.
This is the second high-profile child molestation case that reached a plea agreement just before going to trial. Former Morgan Hill Unified School District teacher John Loyd, 53, of Hollister, agreed to 40 years in state prison after admitting Aug. 3 to inappropriate contact with four young female students in the last two years. Loyd’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 21 at the Morgan Hill courthouse.
Loyd’s crimes occurred on the same Paradise Valley Elementary School campus where Lhermine assaulted the children at a daycare center run by the YMCA. He was arrested at his home by Morgan Hill police July 12, 2013.
The families of the victims were “thrilled that they don’t have to go through a trial and have to face their abuser, and I think that in and of itself is priceless,” McInerny said.
Police arrested Lhermine after a 6-year-old girl under his care at the YMCA program told her parents and investigators that he forced her to engage in inappropriate contact in the bathroom of the day care site, authorities said. During the initial investigation, police found pictures of the 17-year-old girl.
During a follow-up investigation, authorities identified three more alleged female victims—ages 3, 5 and 7 at the time of the incidents, police said. That investigation included assistance from YMCA staff who reached out to the parents of all children who had ever been under Lhermine’s care at the YMCA.
Lhermine worked as a childcare aide at the YMCA day care facility during the alleged assaults and held numerous positions—including youth soccer coach—in his four years of employment at the YMCA, according to authorities.