ST. JOSEPH, Missouri – A man who spent five years in jail for exposing sexual partners to HIV was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for knowingly exposing another woman to the virus.
Sean L. Sykes, 33, was found guilty of having unprotected sex with a St. Joseph woman without telling her he was HIV-positive. Testimony at his trial — which was closed to the public to protect witnesses — indicated that he had exposed at least eight women to HIV. At least three have tested positive.
"I think it's fairly clear he is a very dangerous individual," Prosecutor Dwight Scroggins said after the sentencing. "If he is not in prison, he would likely continue to spread HIV."
Sykes was convicted in 1997 under a 1988 Missouri law that made it a felony to knowingly expose someone to HIV. He was given the maximum sentence of 10 years, but was paroled in 2003.
Scroggins said Sykes has had "numerous" other unknown sexual contacts since he first tested positive 16 years ago.
"It's not an immediate death sentence," said assistant prosecutor Kathleen Fisher, "but that's what he's done to these people, his victims."
A 29-year-old woman who contracted HIV in the mid-1990s after having sex with Sykes testified at the sentencing hearing that her life had been destroyed by the virus.
The mother of two children — neither of whom has tested positive for the disease — said doctors have given her about two years to live.
"My family has left me — they're scared of me," she said. "When I found out that Sean was on trial again for this, it drove me crazy. The main question is why? Why is he doing this?"
Prosecutors said Sykes began having a sexual relationship with a woman in 2004, never telling her that he had HIV.
Sykes contended at his trial that the woman knew he was HIV-positive. He apologized Tuesday for his behavior.