Naponee man sentenced to life

FRANKLIN — The Naponee man convicted by a jury in May in the death of his 2-year-old grandson likely will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Peter Draper, 49, was convicted of committing intentional child abuse resulting in death, a Class 1B felony punishable by 20 years to life in prison; and committing child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison.

The convictions relate to the death of his grandson, Joseph Rinehart Jr., on April 30, 2012.

Judge Stephen Illingworth handed down Draper's sentence Thursday morning during a 15-minute hearing in Franklin County District Court.

Illingworth ordered Draper to serve 60 years to life in prison on the conviction for intentional child abuse resulting in death, then another 49-50 years on the conviction for child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury. The sentences are to be served consecutively, not concurrently.

The judge noted that although Draper would be eligible for parole on the first sentence in 30 years, he then would have to serve the second. The minimum amount of prison time Draper could serve is 54 1/2 years — by which point he would be more than 100 years old.

Franklin County Attorney Patrick Duncan said he was satisfied with the sentence Draper received.

"I think it was an appropriate sentence," Duncan said in an interview after the hearing. "I think the sentence fits the crime. This guy took a two year old child's life and violated te trust a small child should have in a grandparent. Since Joseph Jr. no longer has a life, it's certainly just and suitable that Peter Draper spends the rest of his days in prison."

Joseph Jr. was found to be dead when his mother Laura Rinehart, 25, and 49-year-old grandmother Nancy Draper, Peter's wife, brought him to Franklin County Memorial Hospital in Franklin for the second time on April 30, 2012. A May 2 autopsy showed he died of head, trunk and internal injuries caused by blunt force trauma.

Nancy was convicted of committing intentional child abuse resulting in injury. Laura was convicted of attempt of a felony.

Both charges are Class 2 felonies. District Court Judge Terri Harder sentenced the women Aug. 20.

Laura Rinehart, mother of Joseph Jr., will serve 12-22 years in the Nebraska Department of Corrections.

Nancy, the boy's grandmother, was sentenced to 20-30 years, also in the state prison system.

Both women get credit for 476 days already served in county jail and are eligible for parole after half of the minimum sentence.

The three adults shared a trailer house with four children ages 1-4. Joseph's three siblings were removed from the home and placed in protective services with the Department of Health and Human Services. Peter kicked Laura's husband, Joseph Rinehart Sr., out of the trailer in summer 2011.

Peter's sentencing originally was scheduled for Aug. 1. The court date was continued multiple times as attorney Charles Brewster of Kearney filed on May 17 a motion for a new trial.

The motion cited three reasons for the request, all of which revolve around the state's inclusion of Nancy Draper as a witness during his trial.

Illingworth had to rule on the motion before Peter's sentencing could occur.. The judge overruled the motion on Sept. 12.

Jeff Ensz of Minden's Lieske Law Firm, Laura's court-appointed public defender, filed an appeal with the Nebraska Court of Appeals on Sept. 11 for a reduced sentence.

Don Theobald of Red Cloud, Nancy's appointed public defender, also is appealing his client's sentence. Theobald filed with the Nebraska Court of Appeals on Sept. 24.

To read more, see Friday's Hastings Tribune or the Tribune e-edition.>>>

Copyright © 2014