A Haywood County man received a sentence of at least 94 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of attempted statutory sex offense with a person under 15 years of age.

Robert Combs, 59, officially pleaded guilty on Feb. 4 in Haywood County Superior Court in front of Judge Brad Letts.

Under the plea arrangement, the charge Combs admitted to was a lesser included offense under his initial charge, which was a statutory sex offense with a person under 15 years of age. In addition, one count of indecent liberties with a child was dismissed.

According to the facts of the case presented by Assistant District Attorney Kate Wrenn, Combs had sexually assaulted his step granddaughter while she stayed with them for a brief period of time.

It was said that although the assault occurred over three years ago, the victim came forward so much later because he had threatened her and told her not to tell anyone.

It was also noted that although Combs initially denied his actions, he quickly confessed once questioned. His admission of guilt was considered a mitigating factor in the sentencing.

Defense attorney Josh Nielsen said that along with owning up quickly to what he’d done, Combs had never had a criminal conviction and had been a hardworking, productive member of society until the date of his arrest.

Although the victim, who lives in another state, wasn’t present, she had given her approval of the plea arrangement to Wrenn before it was finalized.

Although she said she would take the stand in a trial, like most minor victims in cases like this, she was still apprehensive.

Combs did show what appeared to be remorse, saying from the defense table to Judge Letts just before he was led out of court, “I don’t want to water down what I did by calling it a mistake.”

Ultimately, Combs was sentenced to 94-173 months in prison less 264 days of pretrial confinement. He was also ordered to have no contact ever again with the victim, and he must register as a sex offender for the next 30 years.

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