Hitchner, 30, pleaded guilty in December to sex abuse of a minor and a second-degree sex offense charge in exchange for other related charges being dropped. At the time of the plea, the state recommended Hitchner be sentenced to 15 years.
In September 2012, one of the preteen girls told investigators that a man she referred to as “J” began molesting her when they lived in another state and continued to do so after they moved to the Williamsport area in 2010, according to the statement of probable cause filed by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
“He’s not denying it, he simply doesn’t remember all of the instances,” Assistant Public Defender Amy Taylor-Heimberg told Dwyer. She asked that Dwyer impose a sentence within the sentencing guidelines of four to nine years.
Hitchner sustained a traumatic brain injury when the vehicle he was in was struck by another vehicle more than a decade ago, Taylor-Heimberg said. She cited a study that shows people with such brain injuries are three times as likely to commit violent crimes, including sexual offenses, she said.
Prior to the last incident of abuse, Hitchner also had been drinking a beverage that combines caffeine and alcohol, Taylor-Heimberg told Dwyer. The energy drink, she said, has been referred to as “blackout in a can.”
She called the combination of brain injury and alcohol “a perfect storm” for Hitchner.
“It is unlikely you were intoxicated so many times you don’t remember any of it,” Dwyer told Hitchner, noting that the abuse took place over a long period of time. Dwyer said there was also forensic evidence to back up the children’s statements.
Dwyer sentenced Hitchner to 45 years in prison, suspending all but 15 years. Hitchner must also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Dwyer said.
The judge did grant a defense request to recommend that Hitchner be sent to Patuxent Institution, a treatment-oriented maximum security prison.