Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 5, 2013

Matoaka-area man admits guilt to sexual assault, abuse charges

Greg Jordan
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — A Matoaka-area man pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of sexual assault second-degree, and sexual abuse first-degree in connection with an 11-year-old girl who had been under his care.

Wilbur Lee Hess Sr., 53, of Matoaka appeared for a plea hearing before Mercer County Circuit Court Judge William Sadler. Hess faces a sentence of 10 to 25 years for sexual assault and 1 to 5 years on sexual abuse. The sentences will run consecutively.

Upon release, Hess will be under supervision, and he will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Sadler said.

Sadler explained to Hess that he had the right to a jury trial, to call witnesses, to testify on his own behalf, and to appeal his conviction to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals if his case went to trial. Hess replied that he understood his rights and pleaded guilty to both charges.

“You are entering a plea of guilty because you are guilty?” Sadler asked.

“Yes,” Hess replied.

The Mercer County grand jury had indicted Hess on charges of sexual assault second-degree, sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or person of trust, sexual assault first-degree and sexual abuse first-degree.

Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash stated Hess had been the girl’s guardian. She complained to one of her friends in April 2012 that Hess had been “contacting her sexually,” he said. Neighbors confronted Hess and reported the allegations to the police.

Hess was remanded back to the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver. Sentencing was scheduled for June 17. Attorney Derrick Lefler, who has represented Hess along with attorney Paul Cassell, asked Sadler to consider his client as a candidate for probation.