Timothy Sprenger, Minot, to serve 20 years for sexually abusing baby, toddler

Timothy James Sprenger, 32, Minot, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Wednesday for sexually molesting a girl more than 30 times when she was between the ages of 1 and 3. He was given a second 20-year sentence, all suspended, which is consecutive to the first sentence, for sexually molesting a second girl when she was a six or seven month old baby. The second 20-year sentence will be suspended for 10 years while Sprenger is on supervised probation. Sprenger must complete sex offender treatment, register as a sex offender, and have no contact with the victims as a condition of his probation, ordered North Central District Court Judge Todd Cresap.

The crimes occurred more than a decade ago, on occasions when Sprenger, who was then in his late teens, had been babysitting for the two youngsters. Sprenger wrote about the incidents in a journal when he was living in Georgia and then ripped the journal to shreds. A family member discovered the ripped journal when he was taking out the trash, taped the fragments back together, and then reported Sprenger to law enforcement.

Sprenger entered guilty pleas to the two Class A felonies last month. In return for his guilty pleas, the Ward County State’s Attorney’s Office agreed not to seek to have him declared a special dangerous offender and not to seek a life sentence. Ward County Assistant State’s Attorney Marie Miller said Wednesday that the Department of Corrections has a habit of releasing offenders long before their full sentences have been served and she felt this sentence recommendation was the best way to ensure that he receives treatment and supervision. If he fails to comply with the terms of probation, his probation will be revoked and he will be returned to prison to serve out the full 20 years of the second sentence.

Cresap largely followed the state’s sentencing recommendation, though Sprenger’s attorney, Kyle Craig, had argued for an eight-year prison term followed by a lengthy period of probation.

Miller told the judge that a pre-sentence sex offender evaluation found that Sprenger had initially been deceptive with the evaluator and claimed he had magically ceased being attracted to very young children when he was 27. He eventually admitted that he still has sexual fantasies about very young children, though he now says he is attracted to 3- and 4-year-old boys and girls rather than to babies and toddlers. Sprenger had also acknowledged that he sexually abused a third child when he was still a juvenile. The evaluator found that Sprenger has a higher than average chance to reoffend and recommended that polygraph testing be used for him.

In court on Wednesday, Sprenger apologized for his crimes and expressed remorse. He told the evaluator that he should receive the maximum sentence and be ordered to attend sex offender treatment, according to Miller.

Craig, in arguing for the lesser sentence, noted that Sprenger has been in the community without any further reports of abuse for up to 14 years. Craig said the North Dakota Department of Corrections aims to rehabilitate offenders with treatment programs and probation. Sprenger wants to attend treatment, said Craig.

“If there’s ever a time for punishment, this is it – the sexual abuse of babies,” Miller told the judge. She said Sprenger’s victims were nonverbal and could not tell their parents what had happened to them, which is cause for great concern, as is Sprenger’s continuing sexual attraction to very young children.

Miller also noted that Sprenger was charged with Class B misdemeanor simple assault while in the Ward County Jail. According to court records, Sprenger punched fellow inmate Ethan Moses in the back of the head in September while Moses was watching television. That file is still open.

Cresap agreed that a lesser sentence would not be appropriate. He told Sprenger that the facts of this case shock even people in the criminal justice system, who have seen and heard things that would shock ordinary members of the public.

Both of the girls who were victimized are in counseling. Miller also asked the judge to leave the matter of restitution open for 90 days so that the amount Sprenger must pay can be determined. Cresap did make that an order.