Woman gets 25-years in child rape case

Published 11:55 am Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Carter County judge sentenced a woman to 25 years in prison following her conviction in a child rape case.

On Friday morning, Amber Nicole Ray, 27, of Johnson City, appeared in Carter County Criminal Court before Judge Stacy Street for a sentencing hearing. In April, a Carter County jury convicted Ray on charges of rape of a child and incest. The offense allegedly occurred between August 2012 and January 2013 while Ray was living in Elizabethton and the victim was 5 years old at that time.

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Prior to Friday’s hearing, the District Attorney’s Office filed paperwork with the court giving notice of their intent to seek enhanced sentencing. Ray’s attorney, H. Nikki Himebaugh, filed a sentencing memorandum with the court on behalf of her client asking for the court’s leniency in sentencing citing her young age at the time the offenses occurred, her “volatile” upbringing, and lack of a criminal record.

“Although Ms. Ray was convicted after a jury trial, she continues to maintain her innocence despite that verdict,” the memorandum filed by Himebaugh states. “However, that being said, Ms. Ray has great regret and deep remorse for her actions and/or inactions which led to the charges and conviction of rape of a child and incest. Furthermore, Ms. Ray does not believe she is a threat to society and agrees not to instigate further contact or relationship with [name withheld], the victim in this case.”

In the memorandum, Himebaugh states that Ray’s mother abused drugs and alcohol and was often involved in relationships with violent men and Ray had witnessed both the drug abuse and violence.

During Friday’s hearing, Street noted that he had read the memorandum filed by Himebaugh regarding sentencing.

“Quite frankly, the court was not impressed with any of that,” Street said. “It appears to the court Ms. Ray continues to deny this, despite the jury verdict which could hamper any treatment.”

Street said he had been prepared to hold a sentencing hearing in the case but was informed before the case was called up that the State and the defense had reached an agreement on sentencing.

Because of the nature of the crime, Street said Ray must be considered a Range II offender by the court despite her lack of an extensive prior record. That put her potential sentence at a minimum of 25 years and a maximum of 40 years on the rape of a child conviction.

Street said the agreement between the State and the defense was for Ray to be sentenced to the minimum of 25 years.

“It is a day-for-day sentence,” Street said. State law requires that Ray serve 100 percent of the sentence for rape of a child and she will not be eligible to receive any behavior or program credits to reduce her sentence.

On the charge of incest, Street sentenced Ray to 3 years in prison, with that sentence to run concurrently with the 25-year sentence.

“When, and if, you complete this sentence, you will be required to register as a sex offender,” Street told Ray. “You will also be subject to community supervision for life.”