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Tearful offender to serve 10 years for molesting teen

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A Spotsylvania County man who molested a teenage boy he was supposed to be mentoring was ordered Tuesday to serve 10 years in prison.

Edward Vincent Zottoli, 62, pleaded guilty in Spotsylvania Circuit Court to two counts of carnal knowledge.

Judge David Beck sentenced him to 20 years with half of it suspended. Beck’s sentence was well above the recommended state sentencing guidelines, which called for a maximum penalty of three years and three months to serve.

According to the evidence presented by prosecutor Amanda Sweeney, Zottoli met the 14-year-old victim at Christian Outreach Tabernacle Church in Spotsylvania.

Zottoli was known as “Brother Ed” at the church, where he mentored boys. He met the victim about six months before molesting him in June.

The boy’s family considered Zottoli a “grandfather figure” to the boy, Sweeney said. He bought the boy a bicycle and provided such items as shoes to the boy and his brother.

He also counseled the boy, who was previously sexually molested by an older child.

Last June 20, Zottoli picked up the boy and his brother and took them to his home on Short Circle in Spotsylvania to spend the night.

Late that night, according to the evidence, Zottoli asked the boy to sleep in his bedroom while his younger brother was in a guest room.

Zottoli entered the room naked asked the child for a massage. He proceeded to engage in several sex acts with the boy.

Zottoli then asked the boy for forgiveness and told him not to tell anyone what had happened.

The next day, Zottoli went to the church and told church officials what had happened. The boy’s parents were notified and the Sheriff’s Office was contacted.

Detective Twyla DeMoranville quickly got a confession from Zottoli, who also told her about molesting children overseas 40 years earlier and a child he met at a Maryland church a few years ago.

Asked why he did it, according to court records, Zottoli said he is affected by a “foul spirit, an abomination from the pit of hell.”

On Tuesday, Sweeney asked Beck to give Zottoli the maximum sentence of 20 years.

She said he has “shattered the lives of a boy and his family,” and said the victim is so depressed by what happened that he can’t eat and contemplates suicide.

“It’s the only way to keep the children in our community safe,” Sweeney said of her 20-year request.

Defense attorney John Spencer said that while Zottoli’s behavior was “deplorable,” the request for 20 years is “way over the top.”

Spencer pointed out that Zottoli had no prior criminal record and that none of the molestations he admitted to DeMoranville were ever prosecuted.

Spencer said the low end of the guidelines—which would give Zottoli just over a year to serve—would be appropriate.

Prior to being sentenced, Zottoli gave a tearful statement in which he blamed his “selfish attitude” for ruining the child’s life.

“I was put in a position of trust and I violated it,” he said.

Zottoli became especially emotional when he spoke about how Christmas cards he sent to his son and daughter were returned to him unopened.

“They want nothing to do with me,” a sobbing Zottoli said.

His son was in court Tuesday in support of the victim.

Zottoli had initially pleaded guilty on Oct. 25 to indecent liberties with a child and four counts of non-forcible sodomy.

But on March 12—the day before Zottoli was set to be sentenced—the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that Virginia’s non-forcible sodomy laws were unconstitutional.

That ruling stemmed from another case, but it forced Sweeney and Spencer to come to another agreement that resulted in the carnal knowledge pleas Tuesday.

Keith Epps: 540/374-5404