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Man goes to prison for 2009 rape of West Michigan girl

Becky Vargo • Jul 20, 2017 at 2:00 PM

A social media comment came up on a young girl’s phone shortly after the normal evening confiscation by a parent: “I’m sorry you were raped, you need to tell a parent,” it read.

The 11-year-old girl’s stepmother said she scrolled through the messages to the first one that said, in part, “I was raped ...”

The girl was talking to a friend about something that happened when she was about 5. An ensuing investigation by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office led to the arrest of now 23-year-old Adam Harvey Burns of Hastings.

Burns was a juvenile at the time of the incident — which occurred in Hudsonville on or about June 24, 2009 — but was charged as an adult, noted Ottawa County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Kuiper.

Burns was jailed for more than a year on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct in the third degree (force or coercion). A plea agreement, made to keep the victim from having to worry about the case any more, allowed the first-degree charge to be dismissed. Burns then pleaded guilty, but mentally ill, to the other charges.

Kuiper said it was important to settle the case because of the affect the delays were having on the victim.

“This gives her some safety,” Kuiper said.

At Burns’ sentencing in Ottawa County Circuit Court on Monday, Judge Jon Hulsing ordered the man to serve 15-40 years in prison. He was credited for serving 406 days in jail.

“I’m sorry,” Burns said prior to being sentenced.

The girl is now 13 and lives in Grand Rapids with her father and stepmother.

Her stepmother read the girl’s statement in court prior to sentencing: “This letter is really hard to write because, every time I do, I start to get flashbacks. Ever since what happened, it has been extremely difficult to do things that most people could do easily without a problem, such as getting out of bed in the morning because of how insecure I am.

“I hated and still do hate my body so much that I have scars all over my leg from where I used to cut myself,” the victim wrote. “I also have some on my arm. I have gotten so depressed that I have been so very close to suicide about five or six times.”

The statement continues to say every time the girl walks down the street she is paranoid about something happening again.

The girl wrote that she hopes Burns stays in prison longer than 15 years: “I hope the judges will see that he doesn’t deserve freedom because I don’t ever feel free.”

The girl’s stepmother said the investigation revealed that the child was out in her yard when Burns asked her if she wanted to see a remote-control car that he had in the shed. He took her to the shed, forced her to the ground and sodomized her.

“At some point, her mother came out and was calling her name,” the stepmother said. “He finally broke contact with her and she ran out of the shed. She tried to tell her mom what happened. Mom called the police to report inappropriate touching.”

The stepmother said police questioned the girl and boy separately, but only a few feet apart.

“He was staring her down and, while in the shed, had told her that he would kill her if she ever told anyone,” the stepmother said. “She believed him.”

The stepmother said that the girl’s mother never told the father what had happened.

And since the assault, the girl has had “massive anxiety” and acted out at school, her stepmother said. Eventually, the girl went to live with her father and stepmother. 

It’s because of the rules placed on the cellphone use that the story came out, the stepmother said. The victim wanted the story to get out so it could help someone in a similar situation, the stepmother added.

The stepmother thanked the detective, prosecutor and victim advocate for their help in the case.

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