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Pennsylvania caretaker sentenced up to 28 years for sexually abusing disabled people

A former caretaker at a Pennsylvania personal care home who sexually abused 14 people with physical and intellectual disabilities has been sentenced to up to 28 years in prison.

James Zook, 69, will serve a minimum of 13 years and nine months for sexually assaulting 14 residents at Faith Friendship Villa in West Hempfield Township, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office. He was sentenced to a maximum of 28 years in prison. Faith’s Friendship Villa, where Zook worked for about 20 years, is a nonprofit personal care home for people with mental illness and other disabilities.

The victims ranged in age from 33 to 69, and all had intellectual or physical disabilities.

Zook pleaded guilty in September to 329 counts of institutional sexual assault, 333 counts of indecent assault and one count of disorderly conduct.

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James Zook, 69, was sentenced to a minimum of 13 years and nine months and a maximum of 28 years in prison for sexually assaulting 14 residents of Faith Friendship Villa. (Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office)

“This is a man who used his position to victimize adults who were unable to protect themselves for more than 15 years,” Assistant District Attorney Fritz Haverstick said during sentencing proceedings. .

During the proceedings, the executive director of Faith Friendship Villa read statements from nine victims, many of whom said they considered Zook a friend and expressed forgiveness. The executive director said 12 of the 14 victims have returned to the program.

“Many of these victims have previously experienced trauma and abuse and seek refuge at Faith Friendship Villa,” she said. “He took advantage of their weakness.”

Zook read a statement apologizing for his actions and saying he regrets his actions.

“It is clear that each victim will continue to suffer deep and long-lasting consequences,” Reinaker said before handing down the sentence.

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Lancaster County District Attorney's Office

The victims ranged in age from 33 to 69 and all had intellectual or physical disabilities, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office. (Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office)

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A licensed psychologist determined that Zuk was a sexually violent offender. The designation includes lifetime registration as a sex offender and mandatory neighborhood notification under Megan’s Law.

Zook received a report from the victim on August 14, 2022, and was arrested and indicted on November 7, 2022 on charges of institutional sexual assault and indecent assault. Zook is accused of sexually assaulting a resident of Faith Friendship Villa on a weekly or biweekly basis starting in late 2020. From early 2021 until August 2022.

Further investigation led to additional charges in January after 13 other victims came forward to say they had been abused.

All victims were interviewed by the Lancaster County Children’s Alliance Center and disclosed sexual abuse from 2007 to 2022.

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