In what a state prosecutor and an investigating detective called the worst child sex abuse case they've ever handled, a 59-year-old Interior man was sentenced to 80 years in prison Friday for abusing a young girl for years and filming it.
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton sentenced Gregory Bucknell to 100 years with 20 years suspended on charges of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and unlawful exploitation of a minor.
"I'm satisfied with the outcome," said Anchorage Police Detective Mark Thomas after the sentencing. He testified that everyone who worked on the case was affected by it. "No sentence will help the victims, but it's something."
Bucknell was defiant during his arrest in early March but eventually admitted to abusing the girl for five years. The girl was 6 when the sexual abuse began, according to the state's sentencing memorandum.
Thomas' investigation into Bucknell began like many other recent investigations involving child pornography -- with the tracking of illegal material being shared on the Internet, assistant attorney general Adam Alexander said. Between September and December 2014, Detective Thomas observed a computer user, later identified as Bucknell, offering to share at least 585 images of child sexual exploitation, according to the sentencing memorandum. Thomas received several videos from Bucknell in the following two months, it says.
The IP address that sent the videos to police was traced to Bucknell's secluded home 40 miles outside Fairbanks on the Steese Highway. Bucknell wasn't home when police served a search warrant on the property. Fairbanks and Anchorage police, Alaska State Troopers and the FBI aided in the investigation.
A detective searched a laptop at the home expecting to find child porn that had been produced elsewhere and downloaded. Some of that porn was there, but the detective initially "found hundreds of images and videos of the (victim) being sexually abused by the defendant for the five previous years," the memorandum says.
Items seen in the videos used by Bucknell to abuse the girl were found during a search of the home, according to the memorandum. Thomas testified he was positive that Bucknell made the videos. His voice and body structure were easily identifiable, he said.
During the sentencing, Alexander asked Judge Wolverton to view snippets of the videos, which he argued was necessary for the court to establish the crimes were among the most serious. The judge stood cross-armed from his elevated desk, looking at a laptop screen on the witness stand brought to court by Detective Thomas. As both men peered at the screen silently, Bucknell stared down, as he did for the entirety of the hearing.
Bucknell was arrested at Fort Knox Gold Mine outside Fairbanks, where he worked as a heavy equipment operator. He was originally charged with seven felonies related to the sexual abuse of the girl and his downloading and sharing of child porn.
After he pleaded guilty in June, the charges were consolidated to the two counts for which he was sentenced.
Bucknell admitted to factors that established the state's "most serious" stipulation. He's not eligible to have his sentence reduced for good behavior in prison as a result.
"There's nothing I can say that describes the depth of (Bucknell's) conduct," Alexander said during his sentencing remarks.
The victim's father spoke to the court by telephone. The girl now lives with her parents outside Alaska, according to testimony. He said that rather than speak to the man who gained his trust and preyed on his daughter, he'd address the judge.
"There is no place in society for a person like that," he said, adding that his daughter's biggest fear of coming forward about the abuse was that she didn't think anyone would believe her.
Bucknell did not speak in court.
Before handing down his sentence, Wolverton said there wasn't much to add.
"As a judge for 32-plus years, it certainly shocks my conscience," he said.