A Sutherland man has been sentenced to 70 years to life in prison for killing his girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter.

When sentencing Donald Lee on Monday, Lincoln County District Court Judge John Murphy called it one of the most brutal, heartless crimes he'd handled in 26 years on the bench.

Lee was spared the death penalty when he pleaded no contest to second-degree murder.

Authorities accused Lee of sexually assaulting and killing 4-year-old Ashlynn Gamble a year ago.

He had been charged with first-degree murder and sexual assault in the case. But Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling said authorities could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the girl had been sexually assaulted.