NORRISTOWN — Saying a Douglass (Mont.) man is a danger to society, a judge imposed a punishment that essentially ensures the man will die in prison for raping a 13-month-old girl.
Robert Laverne Knappenberger, 42, formerly of the first block of Sweinhart Road, who is already serving a 35-year sentence in federal prison for possessing child porn, was sentenced in Montgomery County Court on Tuesday to 25-50 years in state prison on charges of rape of a child and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child in connection with incidents that occurred in 2011.
“There is a clear need to protect society from this man,” said Judge William R. Carpenter, adding the county sentence will run consecutively to the federal sentence. That means Knappenberger won’t be eligible for parole for at least 60 years, when he is 102 years old. The judge said consecutive prison time was warranted for Knappenberger given “the most horrible crimes he committed on this young victim.”
Assistant District Attorney Samantha Cauffman, who leads the district attorney’s sex crimes prosecution division, argued for the consecutive prison time against Knappenberger.
“He victimized the most vulnerable member of society. He victimized a baby who can’t even communicate about her most basic needs of food and water let alone cry out for help because she’s being raped,” Cauffman said.
Knappenberger, according to court documents, also has a 1991 conviction for sexually assaulting two children, ages 2 and 4, while he lived in Trappe for which he served a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.
“This man will always be a threat to children. He should die in prison and now he will. May he burn in hell,” Cauffman said.
Defense lawyer Denise Marone sought to have Knappenberger’s county sentence run concurrently with his federal sentence, arguing the crimes were related to one course of conduct and should not be considered separately for sentencing purposes.
“This will ensure that he spends the rest of his life in jail,” Marone said about the consecutive sentence.
During a nonjury trial in January, the judge convicted Knappenberger of charges of rape of a child and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child in connection with the incidents involving the 13-month-old girl. At that time, Knappenberger already was serving the 35-year sentence in federal prison after previously pleading guilty to charges of producing and disseminating child pornography.
With the federal charges, authorities say Knappenberger photographed his sexual assaults of the child and used the Internet to distribute the child pornography to others.
According to the most recent arrest affidavit filed by Douglass (Mont.) Detective Robert Evans and county detective Dirk Boughter, police were notified by federal agents in April 2011 of a child pornography investigation involving Knappenberger. Undercover federal agents had been conversing with Knappenberger on the Internet regarding the exchange of child pornography and Knappenberger agreed to exchange videos from his home address.
On April 7, 2011, federal officials, with assistance from other agencies, obtained a warrant to search Knappenberger’s residence and seized several items, including computers and a digital camera, according to court records.
Knappenberger, according to court documents, also provided a statement to investigators admitting to having committed “several sexual acts” with the infant victim while she was in his company at various times. Knappenberger also admitted he “took pictures of the progressions of (the sexual acts) for distribution to online contacts with an affinity for this type of child pornography,” according to the criminal complaint.