A Buckingham County jury convicted Charles W. Baird Jr. of 11 sex crimes dating to 1977 at the conclusion of a two-day trial Tuesday night.
The jury of five men and seven women deliberated for two hours before issuing a guilty verdict for Baird, 63, and another 45 minutes before recommending a 48-year sentence for the retired timber worker.
Baird clenched his jaw and shook his head as the clerk read aloud the findings for each charge: Guilty on nine counts of raping a child under the age of 13, guilty of taking indecent liberties with a child, guilty of crimes against nature.
His wife of more than 40 years wept softly as Baird's family and the victims' awaited the jury's sentencing recommendation. The cup of coffee she clutched shook as her hands trembled.
"I'm old anyhow; I tell you the truth, I wish I could drop dead right now," Charles Baird told his supporters as the jury deliberated across the hall from the courtroom.
Virginia State Police began investigating Baird last year after a young woman told county prosecutors that he abused her in 1997 and 2000. That investigation led them to another woman who detailed three years of abuse beginning in 1977, when she was 10. A Buckingham grand jury indicted Baird in September on charges he'd committed 14 sex crimes.
The older woman's testimony and that of a retired social services worker who said she interviewed the victim when the abuse occurred 30 years ago were the focus of the case, which was devoid of forensic evidence. Authorities did not conduct a criminal investigation at the time.
"[Putting the case together] was challenging because all that physical evidence is gone, memories are fading and finding potential witnesses is hard," said Lynchburg Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Bethany Harrison, who prosecuted the case.
Harrison said Buckingham Commonwealth's Attorney E.M. Wright Jr. asked her to prosecute the case because he had performed legal work for the family while in private practice.
A judge ruled that Harrison could not bring up Baird's pending charges because it could prejudice the jury.
The younger victim leaned into a friend's shoulder and cried Tuesday as she listened to the first victim testify about the techniques Baird used to isolate and force himself on her at a time when she didn't even know what sex was.
The Daily Progress does not identify the victims of sexual abuse.
"It took my childhood from me. I couldn't eat. I was always in fear," the first victim said. "After he said no one would believe me, I didn't think anybody would. And after I did come forward, I didn't get any help."
When she initially disclosed the abuse to an older friend who lived down the street from her, Baird admitted himself to the David C. Wilson psychiatric hospital in Charlottesville for more than a month. Baird testified that he received counseling there but said he could not recall what he and his therapist discussed.
He went back to working for his father's timber company. She tried to live a normal life.
"I tried to remember what the Bible told me: 'You've got to forgive,'" the victim said. "But you can't forgive all things and you can't forget them."
Tension between the families simmered as they waited to hear from the jury, culminating in an outburst from one of Baird's sons and an admonition from Buckingham Circuit Judge Kimberley White to maintain the peace or be held in contempt of court.
Baird's Lynchburg-based defense attorney, Joseph Sanzone, said his client planned to file an appeal, citing a lack of evidence and inconsistent testimony from prosecution witnesses.
Baird testified Tuesday that he never had inappropriate contact with the victim. When asked on the stand how he felt when the allegations surfaced in 1980, he broke down:
"I just don't want to even talk about it. I don't know why [she said those things]."
White ordered Baird to undergo a mental exam and a long-form analysis before his sentencing hearing. Although the jury recommended a set sentence, a judge will make the final determination in Baird's case.
Under Virginia law, a judge may pronounce a lesser sentence, but may not hand down a punishment that exceeds the jury's recommendation.
"I love you," Baird called to his family as deputies shuffled him out of the courtroom and off to Piedmont Regional Jail, where he will await adjudication on the three remaining charges.