PHOENIX – A man authorities described as one of Arizona's most egregious serial child molesters was ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison Friday for sexually abusing eight boys.
Arthur Leon Vitasek, 47, was found guilty in November of 26 counts that included sexual conduct with a minor, child molestation and public sexual indecency.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Reinstein sentenced Vitasek to 11 life sentences on 11 of the charges, and since the terms will be served consecutively, Vitasek will never be eligible for parole. Vitasek was sentenced to an additional 200 years in prison on the other counts.
The charges stem from the molestation of eight boys from 7 to 15 years old in Phoenix and the suburbs of Mesa and Paradise Valley over a 15-year period beginning in 1990. Police suspect there are more victims.
Vitasek often targeted financially struggling single mothers, helping them with material items and showering their sons with gifts and attention, authorities said.
Prosecutors said Vitasek would meet new victims through current victims and would abuse them in front of each other to make them think it was OK. He lived in the home of one boy and his family for a period of years.
Vitasek testified in court that three of the victims, all brothers, targeted him because they wanted to keep items that they had stolen from him, including a Corvette and a personal watercraft.
Vitasek also said he caught several of the other victims having sex with each other and they only accused him of molesting them because he threatened to report them, said Bob Dossey, Vitasek's Chandler-based attorney.
Dossey said Reinstein did not allow Vitasek to present that version of events in court.
"Arthur maintains that he is innocent," Dossey said, adding that he will appeal Vitasek's conviction.
Seven of the boys in the case gave emotional testimony during the two-month trial, describing the same type of so-called grooming behaviors by Vitasek and the same type of sex acts — testimony prosecutor Brad Astrowsky said was compelling to jurors.
"It creates an overwhelming picture of the type of person this defendant was," he said. "And that was a serial sexual predator of boys."
Astrowsky said that after receiving his sentence, Vitasek yelled at the victims in court, saying, "I'll be back!"
The other prosecutor in the case, Angela Andrews, said that in all her years of prosecuting sexual predators, Vitasek's case was "the most egregious."
Detective Steve Berry with Mesa police, the lead investigative agency in the case, called Vitasek "a true classic predator."
"You do want to get a maximum sentence on someone like that," he said. "You don't want him to get another opportunity to hurt a child."
Vitasek was arrested in Texas in September 2006 after being on the lam for more than a year and a half. "America's Most Wanted" featured him on the program numerous times before his arrest.
Police in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie arrested Vitasek after a 16-year-old boy reported that Vitasek sexually assaulted him after they met on the Internet.
Grand Prairie police said Vitasek was using a different name, Rich Loper, and that Vitasek only admitted his real name after a detective recognized him and repeatedly questioned him about his identity.
Vitasek told police that he was tired of being a hunted man and that he was glad his life on the run was over, adding, "I'm the nicest man in the world," according to "America's Most Wanted."
The Texas teen testified in Vitasek's Arizona trial, but Texas prosecutors haven't yet decided whether they will pursue charges against them there, considering the life sentence he received, Andrews said.
Vitasek's case also gained attention because he was mentored by former Arizona House Speaker Jim Weiers, who had hired him for a couple of jobs and allowed him to live in his home for a time. Weiers is still a state representative.
A 2006 Mesa police report said that one of Vitasek's teenage victims told investigators that Weiers tried to discourage him from cooperating with police in the case. But the teen later signed a notarized handwritten statement, issued by Weiers' office, saying that the Republican lawmaker "never told me not to talk to police."
In the statement, the victim also said any comments he'd made "that point a finger at Jim Weiers were a result of my being angry about what happened to me. I was blaming Jim for not having stopped Arthur.
"The truth is I don't even know that Jim knew what was going on," the statement said.
Weiers said at the time that the victim must have misunderstood him when he warned him about being exploited by the media.
Berry said Vitasek's life sentence likely will provide some closure to the victims in the case.
"One of the biggest things with molestation and rape and these types of cases is oftentimes victims feel like they're the only ones and no one's going to believe them and they're reluctant to come forward," he said. "So I think it is fantastic when victims can see that people do believe them and take them seriously, and know that this guy's not going to harm anyone else."
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