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Man sentenced for 04 encounter with teen
Must register as sex offender
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Forsyth County News
A Forsyth County man received 10 years probation this week after he pleaded guilty to charges of statutory rape and serving alcohol to minors.
Eric Hamilton, 41, must also pay a $2,000 fine and register as a sex offender.

The charges stem from a 2004 incident in which Hamilton gave alcohol to two sisters, ages 14 and 18, and had sex with the 14-year-old, Barbara Wells.

The Forsyth County News doesn’t typically name victims of sexual assault, but has done so in this case since the mother had previously made public the victim’s name.

According to family members, Wells died in June 2007 as the result of a combination of drugs and alcohol.

Her mother, Diane Lankford, said Wells turned to substance abuse as a result of the 2004 incident.

Lankford said Wells was receiving court-ordered treatment at a rehabilitation facility in Griffin when the state shut the clinic down in March 2007, just months before she died.

Lankford and her other daughter, Miriam Wells, had mixed feelings about Hamilton’s sentence.

“My sister’s dead,” Wells said. “I don’t really know how I feel about [the sentence.] There’s stuff that could’ve been done, but my sister died. I think for the most part it was fair.”

Added Lankford: “I don’t know how I feel ... I am very pleased that he has to register as a sex offender.”

Barbara Wells’ death jeopardized the case against Hamilton, whose attorney would not have been able to cross-examine the teenager. As a result, the prosecution negotiated a plea deal.

“I’m just very grateful for the [district attorney] pursuing it,” Lankford said. “I knew it was a long shot, but it’s justice for Barb.”

Miriam Wells said taking the case to trial could’ve been a great risk and Hamilton may have been found not guilty.

“My sister is not coming back, there’s no way to get her back and that’s something we have to live with every day,” Wells said.

When asked by Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley what happened, Hamilton said he let the girls drink and that the sex with Barbara Wells was “consensual.”

Hamilton was 36 when the incident occurred.

“I’ve regretted it every day since it happened,” he said.

Bagley said Wednesday that serving alcohol to minors is “despicable to the utmost degree” and that Wells was a “child” at the time of the incident.

He also said he thought Hamilton should serve time in prison, but sentenced him otherwise because of the plea negotiation.