She sat quietly in the courtroom Tuesday afternoon and wiped away tears with a shaking hand as the man who had manipulated her into sex at age 14 called himself religious, said he loved her and blamed her for two years of sexual exploitation.
Todd Tackwell, 39, admitted he broke the law and had sex with the girl but argued he did nothing wrong and the relationship was consensual.
“Was Elvis wrong? Was Ben Franklin wrong? This happens all the time in history. How can all the sudden it be wrong?” Tackwell said. “It can’t be wrong. It is the position of the Legislature of Nebraska to say we’re going to make a law about it. I don’t have to agree with that.”
Lancaster County District Judge John A. Colborn said he could not ignore the serious nature of Tackwell's crime and sentenced him to 35 to 45 years in prison to protect the public. Tackwell pleaded no contest Sept. 10 to first-degree sexual assault of a minor.
The girl was the daughter of a friend’s girlfriend.
Tackwell rented the basement of the house where she lived in northwest Lincoln. He befriended her, helped her with her homework. They kissed for the first time in February 2004, and the relationship quickly escalated.
She was too young at the time to understand how he manipulated her and how evil were his intentions, she said during an interview after the sentencing.
When she broke it off in 2006, he was furious, according to an affidavit for his arrest written by Lincoln Police Sgt. Mark Unvert. She didn’t know how to handle the situation, so she told her mother they had kissed but didn’t tell her about the sex.
Her mom kicked Tackwell out of the house.
Four years later, she heard Pleasanton, Calif., police had arrested Tackwell for the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old. It was then his Nebraska victim realized that he was a predator and she needed to step forward and help stop him from harming other children, she said.
Tackwell met the California girl in an Internet chat room in October 2009, and in the spring of 2010 moved there despite not having a job and not knowing anyone else in the area, according to the Alameda County district attorney’s office. She was in his truck when an officer stopped it on July 23, 2010, and became suspicious of the relationship.
Tackwell was convicted last year by a California jury of continuous sexual abuse of a 13-year-old and an enhanced burglary charge for repeatedly sneaking into the girl’s home for sex. The Pleasanton Patch newspaper reported he was sentenced in July 2012 to 25 years to life in prison.
On Tuesday, the Nebraska woman said his statements during the sentencing in Lincoln hurt. She pities him and believes he is mentally sick.
Tackwell also faces a federal indictment on child pornography charges in Nebraska. He is accused of possession of child pornography and receiving and distributing it from about March 1, 2008, through Aug. 31, 2008.
A trial has been set for early next year.