In 2020, Richard Fahnestock pleaded guilty to raping a child.
About six years after the assaults occurred, the girl’s younger sister came forward with more allegations.
Fahnestock, 49, will now serve a total sentence of 14-28 years in prison, which will be followed by 12 years of probation, after a Dauphin County judge accepted a negotiated sentence.
Fahnestock was originally charged in 2018 after the older sister came forward, saying Fahnestock raped her in the House of David in Elizabethtown from the time she was 12 until she was about 14, according to court documents.
The older sister said the younger sister walked in on several of the assaults, court documents said.
As investigators followed up the older sister’s allegations, prosecutors also believed Fahnestock molested the younger sister, too.
But she denied any contact between Fahnestock and herself, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Gettle.
“She wasn’t ready—that’s not uncommon,” Gettle said.
After two years of court appearances, Fahnestock pleaded guilty to rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a person less than 16 years old, statutory sexual assault and corruption of a minor in March of 2020.
After he was classified as a sexually violent predator, Dauphin County Judge Deborah Curcillo sentenced him to 8 to 16 years in state prison Sept. 8, 2020. He also received two years of probation after his release.
Curcillo also found that Fahnestock is an “uncurable” pedophile, which a state superior court panel upheld in 2021 after Fahnestock challenged the designation. That designation requires him to register with state police for life, that all his future neighbors will be notified of his crimes, and that he is subject to mandatory lifetime sex offender counseling.
Fahnestock was in State Correctional Institute Mercer in 2022 serving his sentence when a Middletown Borough Police detective pulled him into an interview.
After years of therapy and processing, the younger sister had come forward and recanted her denial of his assault, Gettle said. She said Fahnestock molested her and that she used to cry her way out of doing things with Fahnestock she didn’t want to do, according to court documents.
“If she’s saying that, I must have did it,” Fahnestock said during the interview. He admitted he made a terrible mistake and said he wished there was a way to personally apologize to the girls, according to court documents.
Fahnestock’s attorney, Hillary Hall, negotiated a plea deal to side-step a trial and spare the girl from testifying.
The girls’ father sat in the back of Judge William Tully’s courtroom Thursday afternoon, emitting sighs anytime Fahnestock opened his mouth. Gettle told Tully the girls’ father would not deliver a statement before sentencing because he said he could not control what he would say.
“I hurt his daughter, ruined friendships and I’m truly sorry and wish him the best,” Fahnestock said.
“Richard has been interested in resolving this case,” Hall said. “He hasn’t been trying to hide.”
Hall said Fahnestock is spending time in prison as a “wheelchair pusher” — someone who pushes wheelchairs for inmates who use them.
Tully begrudgingly accepted the negotiated deal, stating that as a father of three daughters, he could only imagine what it would be like to deliver a victim impact statement. But he acknowledged that letting the matter go to trial would mean the girl would have to testify.
“It’s less than you probably deserve, but I do not want to interfere with something that has been negotiated,” Tully said.
Fahnestock pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, aggravated indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of minors — all felonies. An additional felony charge of rape of a child was dropped as part of the negotiated plea.
“We recognize victims who have been exposed to molestation may not be ready to repeat it when it happens to them,” Gettle said. “But when a victim is ready to talk, our office is ready to hear them.”
“Thankfully, after several years of therapy, [the younger sister] was finally able to talk and get some closure for this,” Gettle said.