BERRYVILLE — A convicted child molester who reportedly exaggerated symptoms of dementia in an attempt to avoid or delay incarceration will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Steven Alan Lingle, 69, of the 100 block of Sequoia Drive near Winchester, was sentenced last week in Clarke County Circuit Court to two life sentences plus an additional 160 years behind bars. Only 60 years of the sentence was suspended by Judge Alexander Iden, leaving Lingle with a total prison term of life plus 100 years.
Virginia no longer offers parole to convicted criminals, but if Lingle were to be released at any point by the state Department of Corrections, he will be placed on five years of supervised probation and required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
The term of incarceration was a massive deviation from what was suggested in Virginia’s sentencing guidelines, which recommended a minimum punishment of eight years 10 months, a maximum prison term of 19 years 0 months and a midrange sentence of 15 years 10 months. The state’s criminal justice system developed the guidelines to help courts impose consistent sentences but judges are under no obligation to follow them.
According to a notation in Lingle’s pre-sentence report, “The guideline range for the sentence is inadequate to address the level of breach of trust and betrayal by the defendant of [the victim] and [the girl’s] entire family.”
Lingle pleaded no contest during a pair of hearings in April and May 2022 to a total of six felonies — two counts of aggravated sexual battery of a child under the age of 13, two counts of object sexual penetration of a child under the age of 13 and two counts of forcible sodomy of a child under the age of 13.
Court documents state Lingle repeatedly molested a young girl in his care for more than a year, from March 4, 2018, to Nov. 13, 2019. The offenses occurred in Clarke and Frederick counties, but all the charges were consolidated and prosecuted in Clarke County Circuit Court.
The assaults began when the child was just 4 years old.
After being arrested on May 15, 2020, Lingle reportedly began displaying signs of dementia. He was admitted to Western State Hospital — a government-run psychiatric institution in Staunton — from December 2020 to May 2021, at which time doctors deemed him competent to address the charges against him.
After Lingle entered his pleas of no contest last year, his lawyer, Thomas Fox, told Iden his client’s mental condition was deteriorating. Fox said on Oct. 3 that Lingle was unable to answer several basic questions about his background that were part of a pre-sentencing report, and when Iden asked Lingle why he had not responded, the defendant claimed he had never seen the paperwork even though it had been delivered to his cell at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center near Winchester.
On Nov. 7, Fox said Lingle had showed no signs of improvement so Iden sent the defendant back to Western State for another mental evaluation.
The results of that evaluation were compiled on March 17 by psychologist Susan Frank of Potomac Falls. She wrote that Lingle demonstrated forgetfulness and confusion during his four meetings with her, but the doctor determined “that he was either greatly exaggerating or feigning memory deficits.”
Many of Lingle’s actions and statements, Frank wrote, did not correspond with the symptoms of dementia. She also noted that a guard at the jail reported the defendant was telling other inmates he was going to get out of custody due to his condition, and Lingle’s girlfriend told jail staff that he “utilized his reported dementia as a way to rationalize and/or explain the allegations” of child molestation.
Additionally, Lingle told Frank that he never used the phone at the jail to call his girlfriend or family members, but records show he made a total of 11 phone calls between March 5 and 15 alone.
“Based on all the above,” Frank wrote in her six-page report, “the preponderance of evidence suggests that at the time of this evaluation, Mr. Lingle was not demonstrating any impairments that would have precluded him from understanding the nature and objectives of the proceedings against him or would hinder his ability to assist in his defense.”
Lingle continues to be held at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center pending transfer to an undisclosed state prison.