LAS VEGAS – A former Las Vegas kindergarten teacher will serve between 12 ½ years and life in prison for kidnapping a 16-year-old girl and creating child pornography in his apartment for two months.
District Judge Stefany Miley issued the sentence to 48-year-old Melvyn Sprowson, who repeatedly professed his love for the 16-year-old and described the relationship as a “bad moral decision,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.
Sprowson weaved his career as an educator with his religion in a rambling justification for his actions when he addressed the court on Monday.
“This is an issue of age of consent. This is not an issue of me being a criminal and having criminal intent,” he said. “One day I will die, and I will wake up in the arms of Jesus. That is my sole consideration in this whole process. The Lord knows what happened. I have a clear conscious before God.”
According to a 2013 report of Sprowson’s arrest in the Las Vegas Sun:
Prosecutors allege the Clark County teacher took the teen without her mother’s consent, harbored the girl for two months, supplied her with alcohol and gave her a sexually transmitted disease before Clark County School District police discovered the missing and truant girl at his apartment in November.
Choking back sobs, the mother recalled how her daughter was a straight-A student at a top magnet school and a hardworking hostess at a local breakfast joint before she met and fell in love with Sprowson. Although the girl was eventually found, the daughter she knew before never came home, the mother said.
In March, Sprowson was convicted of four counts of unlawful use of a minor in the production of pornography, and one count each of first-degree kidnapping and child abuse or neglect.
While out on bail for the charges, Swanson allegedly contacted the victim on Instagram despite the judge’s orders against it.
“There are so many times he could have made a better decision,” prosecutor Jacqueline Bluth said at Sprowson’s sentencing. “He could have chosen not to pick her up. He could have chosen to bring her back.”
The two initially met on Craigslist in August of 2013 and prosecutors contend Sprowson solicited revealing pictures from the teen before they met up at a roller-skating rink, according to the Review-Journal.
Over the following weeks they developed a relationship and the girl’s mother took away her phone when she found out. That prompted the girl to contact Sprowson to pick her up, and he advised her to bring along her Social Security card and birth certificate.
Sprowson told police he intended to keep her at his apartment until she was 17 ½ years old, the legal age to marry. He banned other boys from visiting when he wasn’t home, and disguised the girl in baggy clothes on the few occasions he took her out in public.
The girl’s mother explained the situation during her testimony against Sprowson in 2013, according to the Sun.
“She was an A student. She had a job. She had everything going for her,” the sobbing mother said on the stand. “And then she comes back and says she’s going to get a GED and do what? Get married (to him)?”
The victim told the court she responded to a Craigslist add advertising “Lonely Millionaire” and Sprowson initially told her he was 34 years old. The girl said she forced Sprowson to pick her up the night she ran away by threatening to commit suicide if he didn’t.
Once at his apartment, she quit school with the plan to wait it out until she was old enough to wed.
In the meantime, Sprowson taught kindergartners at Wengert Elementary School. Eventually, the girl’s mother used private investigators working with school and local police to track down Sprowson’s apartment, and a maintenance worker pretended to check on a faulty smoke detector and discovered the girl.
The teen’s grandmother begged Judge Miley to impose the maximum sentence.
“This is a grown man who lies, manipulates and rationalizes like a child,” she said. “So I don’t see any hope of him not doing the same thing to another child.”
Sprowson seemed to confirm the grandmothers suspicions as he continued to justify his actions as he represented himself at the sentencing Monday.
“The idea of her running away was not mine,” he said. “My mistake was I allowed her to come and stay with me.”
“If she was 18 and not 16, would I have been charged with kidnapping? The answer is absolutely no,” he said. “If she was 18 and not 16, would I have been charged with child abuse? The answer is no,” Sprowson said.