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Breaking long years of silence

The girls, sexually abused by the man they called Daddy, hope their story helps other victims speak up.

By MICHAEL KRUSE
Published January 15, 2006


[Times photo: Keri Wiginton]
From left, Jessica Kelley, 19, and her half sister, Cassie LeBlanc, 15, stand in front of Jessica's horse, Casper, on Thursday. The girls were sexually abused from 1994 to 2000. Three years ago, they talked to their mom about it. Last month, Cassie's father, Clarence LeBlanc got life in prison.

Oh, but what happened to that little girl

Who used to dream of one day ruling the world

Who used to draw pretty pictures in my room beneath the moon ...

Softly praying to God ...

No daddy don't

No daddy don't

- OTEP, Jonestown Tea

BROOKSVILLE - The first few years it was happening, Jessica Kelley says, she didn't even know it was wrong. Neither did her half sister. Cassie LeBlanc thought it was the way daddies showed their love.

Later on, when he kept coming under the covers, they said, and doing what he would do, and telling them not to tell, they knew more. They knew they wanted it to stop so bad they sometimes peed their pants.

In March 2003, finally, Cassie said something to her mother. Then Jessica. Then they went to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. And not quite three years later - some dozen years after the abuse started, more than five years after it ended, and after the divorce, after he had moved to Massachusetts, after one prosecutor closed the case and another one opened it up again - Clarence LeBlanc, 46, last month got life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"I want the worst things to happen to him in prison, over and over and over again," Colleen LeBlanc, the girls' mother, said last week at Jessica's home west of Brooksville.

Jessica is 19 now. Cassie is 15. The girls wanted to tell their story to the St. Petersburg Times so that others who have been sexually abused might feel more comfortable coming forward.

They wanted their names used, too, for the same reason - even though Times policy in cases like these, almost always, is to omit the identities of the victims due to the nature of the crimes.

"For anybody out there, good things do happen," Cassie said. "Justice does happen. It happens to normal people. Don't just be quiet and deal with it for the rest of your life."

Back when this was going on, when the girls had all sorts of behavior problems and problems in school - both of them tried to commit suicide more than once, they say - Colleen thought it was the divorce.

But then Colleen fell off her horse and got knocked out. Cassie thought she was dead. Just for a second - but long enough, she said, to realize what would happen if she did die.

"I would have been sent to live with him," she said.

So she talked.

Jessica told her mother by playing a song by the heavy metal band called OTEP.

Look what he did to me! Why did you do it to me?

How could you do it to me?! Why did you do it to me?

I will not cry ... I will not cry

I prefer to die! The abuse started in 1994, the girls told authorities, and it ended in 2000.

LeBlanc was a subcontracting carpenter and was away on jobs for long periods of time. When he would come back, Colleen said, he'd say he wanted "one-on-one time" and "quality time" with the girls. He would go in and say good night. To the girls, he called it "Daddy's little secret" or their "special secret," they said.

"I was always Daddy's little girl," Cassie said last week.

"I was always Daddy's little helper."

The sheriff's reports and court documents said the abuse happened in the bedroom, in the bathroom and on the living room couch, here in Hernando County, and in Florida, Indiana and Canada, too, and that there was touching and rubbing, and that wasn't all.

In July 2003, though, the case stalled. An assistant state attorney dropped it, documents show, because he thought the case could not be prosecuted.

But current Assistant State Attorney Don Barbee refiled the case in July 2004. "Because I believed them," he said late last month in his office in Brooksville. "I believed their story, and I believed a jury would believe them, too." A warrant was served two months later.

This is from Cassie's deposition last month:

"And he came in," she said of an early incident, in the summer of 1994. "He was talking to me. And then he ended up pretty much - he was like, "What are you doing under there?' And I was like, "Nothing, you know, just trying to go to sleep.' And he pretty much ripped the covers off me and just kept touching me everywhere, and then he finally left me alone. And he gave me a kiss on the forehead and left."

"So you were about 4 years old at the time?" public defender Colleen Kasperek asked.

"Yes," Cassie said.

"Okay. Now why did you have a fear of him coming into the room?"

"To be honest, I really don't know. I just had this feeling that I didn't want him touching me or to see me."

"Okay."

"And that's why I covered myself so tightly."

"Did he touch you?"

"Yes."

And this is from Jessica's deposition:

"What I can remember is that as it started, I was about 7, 8, and it was just touching," she said. "He would come into the bedroom at night. I had bunk beds. I always slept on top. He was supposed to be saying good night, tucking me in, and it started off with just touching, feeling all over and then later on it progressed into more."

"And the oral sex was more frequent," she said at a different point in the questioning. "He did try anal sex one time, but I got scared and peed myself, and he had stopped."

Jessica is now studying criminology at Pasco-Hernando Community College. Cassie is a sophomore at Central High. They are still in counseling.

Cassie and Colleen say next month they're going to change their name to Newell - Colleen's maiden name - to drop the L eBlanc.

"After so many years, it's finally over with," Cassie said. "After so many years dealing with it ... gone. In two afternoons."

The trial was the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas. L eBlanc didn't testify. Kasperek advised him not to. He had no prior criminal record.

"Personally, I still don't believe it happened to them," Kasperek said last week from her office. "Anybody can accuse anybody of this crime. It's really just who the jury wants to believe."

The jury took just 40 minutes to reach its decision. The girls held hands. The verdict was read.

Circuit Judge Jack Springstead gave his sentence.

LeBlanc looked at the girls when he was being fingerprinted. "Dead in the eye, and he just shook his head," Cassie said. "I smiled back." The bailiff put him in handcuffs. He gave the girls one last look on his way out.

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.

[Last modified January 15, 2006, 01:47:20]


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