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Cops and Courts

Former Avon Lake fire chief gets 15 years in prison

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    Former Avon Lake Fire Chief Larry Grizzell and his attorney, James Burge, appear in Lorain County Common Pleas Court for Grizzell's sentencing Thursday.


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    Former Avon Lake Fire Chief Larry Grizzell reads a statement he prepared during his sentencing in Judge Chris Cook's court on Thursday, May 2. To his right is Grizzell's attorney, James Burge.



ELYRIA — A former Avon Lake fire chief was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of rape, sexual battery and gross sexual imposition for the sexual assault of a teenager over the course of six years.

Larry Grizzell, 60, of Elyria, pleaded guilty to a 24-count indictment March 22. On Thursday, he appeared before Judge Chris Cook for sentencing.

The victim and her mother were not in the courtroom for the sentencing, but Assistant County Prosecutor Chris Pierre said the prosecutor’s office has had “extensive conversations” about the case, the sentencing, their rights, the options the court had and their feelings on them.

“I have discussed those options with them, and I am ready to speak on their behalf,” Pierre said. “The mental and emotional trauma was such that they felt they could not appear here in court today.”

Pierre said Grizzell sexually assaulted the girl for nearly six years, and the abuse began when she was 13. He also said the abuse took place on “nearly a daily basis.”

An investigation by Elyria detectives found that Grizzell had sexually assaulted the girl, police have said. As a result of the investigation, detectives signed warrants against him.

Grizzell “made admissions regarding the offenses he was charged with” when police interviewed him, police said.

Grizzell was arrested in October on charges of rape and sexual battery by Elyria police without incident, a day after police received a complaint alleging a sex offense against him.

Pierre said the victim tried to work with a counselor to write a letter to be read in court during the sentencing hearing, but the “task was simply too overwhelming for her.” The mother of the victim wrote a letter, which Pierre read.

“It is my opinion that Larry Grizzell will never be rehabilitated, nor will he be able to coexist in society effectively,” the mother said in her letter. “He is a master manipulator and was able to not only manipulate our lives and every single person that was associated with us, but more importantly, he manipulated my very innocent child in ways that I will never be able to comprehend, forget or understand.”

The mother said her daughter will “never be equal to her peers socially, nor will she ever be able to relate to a person her own age who has not endured or understands.”

In the letter, the mother asked Cook to sentence Grizzell to no less than 20 years, which Pierre echoed.

Grizzell’s attorney, James Burge, asked Cook to consider not just the last six years of his client’s life, but also the first 54.

“He was a member of the United State Air Force for 10 years,” Burge said. “He mustered out with an honorable discharge at the rank of sergeant E-5. Thereafter, he worked for the city of Avon Lake in public service as their chief of the fire department and completed a career there.”

Burge also said his client understands the seriousness of the case and feels remorse for his actions.

“I’ve listened to Mr. Grizzell tell me how remorseful he is in wonderment over how he could have gotten himself into this position and whatever possessed him in that period of time to violate not only Ohio law but the laws which he lives as a Christian.”

Grizzell read a written statement in which he said he wanted to “express how sorry I am for this out-of-character crime I have committed against God and the court.”

Cook said the manner in which Grizzell had lived his life for the first 54 years cannot be dismissed.

“You’ve led a life that most of us would have been thrilled to have lived,” Cook said. “You have thrown that away …”

“I have to wonder if at times you ever looked in the mirror after assaulting that child, having sexual relations with her, and just wondered, ‘God, what did I just do?’ … If you did, it must not have hit home enough for you to stop or to try to put an end to it.”

In addition to the prison sentence, Grizzell must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.

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