An apologetic Frederick Blair was on Thursday morning sentenced to 12 years in prison for helping to conceal the 2017 deaths of two young sisters on his Norwood farm.
Blair, who uses his middle name, Alec, said prior to the sentence there is "no excuse or justification" for what happened to Makayla Roberts and Hannah Marshall, who were 10 and 8, respectively, when religious leader Madani Ceus allegedly banished them to a car on his property and decreed they could not be fed from her "increase" because she had deemed them impure.
The children's partly mummified bodies were discovered Sept. 8, 2017, when Blair's father and a friend came from Texas to check on his well-being.
Pathologists later said the girls likely succumbed to heat and starvation.
Blair's father Franklin Fletcher and friend Adam Horn testified previously they had received alarming reports about a change in Blair's personality and his treatment of a beloved dog, so they went to Norwood to check. They said they had been shocked to find an emaciated and wary Blair, dressed in rags.
"I struggle with the idea that I saved his life for him to be sent to prison," Fletcher said Thursday.
District Judge Keri Yoder noted several mitigating factors for Blair, but said a sentence in the aggravated range was appropriate. She imposed 12 years - the maximum allowed under the plea agreement - rejecting the defense argument for 784 days of time served in San Miguel County Jail as the case proceeded.
Yoder said she was giving little weight to the defense's lengthy description of how Blair fell under the sway of a "doomsday" cult leader.
"The reality is, it doesn't lessen criminal responsibility," Yoder said.
Blair thanked her just before he was led away.
Four other group members were charged in the case, along with Blair, who pleaded guilty as an accessory for helping hide under a tarp the car in which Makayla and Hannah died.
Ceus is facing trial on murder charges. The children's mother, Nashika Bramble, was convicted of first-degree murder earlier this year and was sentenced to life in prison.
Ashford Archer is serving 24 years after being convicted of fatal abuse and as an accessory to a crime. He and Bramble intend to appeal.
Ika Eden was deemed legally incompetent to stand trial.
See the full story in Friday's Daily Press.