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An unordained preacher who pleaded guilty today to three felony charges of first-degree sodomy in the repeated sexual abuse of three of his adopted children will not serve any time in prison.
Circuit Judge Karen Hall sentenced Jerry Wayne Love to 15 years on each charge to be served one after the other. But she accepted prosecutors' recommendation and ordered Love to spend five years on probation and undergo treatment in a sex offender program.
Love, 51, of 3202 Overhill St., pleaded guilty to charges of sodomizing three young boys he and his wife adopted. In exchange, the prosecution dropped 10 counts of sodomy and three counts of sexual abuse against Love.
The case was scheduled for trial today. If he had been convicted by a jury, Love could have been sentenced up to life in prison on nine of the felony charges.
The boys were adopted in the 1990s shortly before Love and his wife were named as adoptive parents of the year by the Madison County Department of Human of Resources, officials said.
The boys now are 13, 14 and 16.
Assistant District Attorney Allison Palmer told Circuit Judge Karen Hall that Love had abused the boys multiple times over several years.
Fred Sharp, an investigator with the Huntsville Police Department, said he was contacted by school officials in 2003 after one of the boys told a counselor Love had molested him. Two younger boys came forward in 2006, Sharp said.
Love is a minister but is not ordained by any church or religious group, Sharp said.
Palmer said Love molested one of the boys after DHR had removed the child from Love's home.
The prosecution offered the plea agreement to spare the boys from having to testify against Love, Palmer said. The number of males who report being victims of sexual molestation is very low, she said, because of the stigma and trauma.
"They are juveniles and to have them face the man who molested them for years would have traumatized them again," Palmer said.
Love and his wife ducked out of the courtroom and down a stairway after the sentencing. He did not offer any statement to the victims or show any remorse in the courtroom.
Steven K. Aldridge and Alan Davis, Love's lawyers, said they believe their client made the right decision by accepting the plea agreement.
"Mr. Love was in a very serious situation," said Aldridge, an attorney from Florence. "He was accused by three separate children. After looking at the evidence, the prosecution was going to bring against him, he thought accepting the plea would be in his best interest."
While on probation, Love must complete a sex-offender counseling program. He must also register as a sex offender under the community notification law.