A Bloomington man was sentenced to 21 1/2 years in prison for child molestation and stalking Thursday.
Noah James Gardner, 35, will serve 20 years of his sentence with 1 1/2 years suspended. He will then be on probation for an additional four years as part of his plea agreement.
Four years ago, a woman called the police because she could not find her 13-year-old daughter, according to court documents. Police later found the girl at Gardner’s home locked in a small closet. The girl told police that Gardner asked her to hide in the closet when he heard the police arrive.
According to court documents, Gardner and the girl had discussed and were comfortable with the 19-year age gap between them. The 13-year-old told police she and Gardner had been involved with each other for the past five to six months.
Fast forward almost three years, and Gardner was released from jail before his trial. Per court orders, he was not allowed to contact the girl in any way.
However, the girl told police Gardner began calling her about a month later. Gardner would give her rides to and from school and work. They hung out most days during the summer, she told police. They would go to the park or Gardner’s apartment.
According to court documents, she was comfortable with the relationship until Gardner turned obsessive and violent.
Gardner would drive to the Goodwill where she worked and demand she come outside to speak with him. He even walked into the employee-only section of the store one day trying to find her.
The girl and her father were leaving their home one day when Gardner shouted at them from behind a neighbor’s house. He then followed them in his maroon Dodge Dakota to a gas station honking his horn and yelling at her.
He stalked her on Facebook, demanding to know the names of her male friends.
The girl feared for her safety, according to court documents. She stopped going to school. She did not go to work. Her mother said she didn’t like staying at the house, after Gardner showed up several times and banged on the front door.
He left physical marks, too. The girl told police that Gardner once kicked her in the shins so forcefully, she was sure her bone had shattered. He beat her and kicked her and said she was lucky to be alive, according to court documents.
Standing in court today, Gardner was mostly silent. He stood with his hands folded behind his back as Judge Marc Kellams asked him if he wished to make a statement.
Gardner simply shook his head.
Upon his release, Gardner will be required to register as a sex offender. He won’t be able to contact his victim again.
Kellams’ parting words for Gardner were brief – “Good luck, Noah.”
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Police said they were unable to locate the man.