Life sentence upheld for former STC professor who sexually abused children

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A federal appellate court on Monday upheld the life sentence for a former South Texas College math professor who sexually abused two children under the age of 7.

In its ruling, however, the court vacated the $22,000 in restitution that 43-year-old Reid Etheridge was ordered to pay his two victims, ruling that federal prosecutors fell short in their burden of providing the court with enough evidence to estimate the victims’ losses.

“We therefore remand this case for the district court’s reconsideration of the restitution amounts to K.C. and E.E.,” the ruling stated. “We also hold that the Government may present supplemental evidence on remand because of the great harm that the victims may suffer from ‘the Government’s failure to present sufficient evidence to the district court.’”

Etheridge was ordered to pay K.C. $12,000 and to pay E.E. $10,000.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Etheridge to life in prison in July of 2022 for sexually abusing children aged just 4 and 6 years old in 2020.

“The facts of this case are just so horrible. This is somebody who groomed somebody else to give up their child so he could have sexual relations with another child besides his own,” Crane said at the time.

The other child belonged to 31-year-old Alicia Cronkhite.

Crane sentenced her to 15 years in prison and she is projected to be released from federal prison in 2033.

The investigation into Etheridge revealed that he sexually abused the 4 year old on at least six occasions between March and October of 2022.

He also directed Cronkhite to send him multiple sexually explicit pictures of her 6-year-old child between January and September of 2020.

Etheridge gained access to Cronkhite and her child when she and her husband were students in Etheridge’s statistics class at STC.

They all initially became friends but then Cronkhite left her husband to pursue a romantic relationship with Etheridge.

To Crane, the judge, it appeared that this was all planned.

“It does appear, from everything I read, that Mr. Etheridge was very calculating. I do believe that you were victimized from the very first time he went to your house to play videogames,” Crane told Cronkhite at the sentencing hearing.

Crane scheduled a hearing for re-sentencing on restitution in October.