Auliea Hanlon: Outrage at sentence for daughter's rapist affirms faith in humanity

2013-08-29T17:00:00Z 2014-05-16T11:57:07Z Auliea Hanlon: Outrage at sentence for daughter's rapist affirms faith in humanityBy GREG TUTTLE gtuttle@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Auliea Hanlon never expected all the attention, and she was surprised by the support and encouragement from complete strangers.

The media spotlight wasn't something she sought, and it made her uncomfortable.

Reporters from across the country began calling, even knocking on her door.

Journalists from the United Kingdom and other countries also pursued the story that the man who raped Hanlon's daughter received a 30-day jail sentence Monday.

"I wasn't very happy about it at first," she said of the media interest. "It was like an invasion, I swear."

But by Thursday, when an estimated 400 people gathered in downtown Billings to protest against the judge who ordered the sentence and, in the process, made offensive comments about rape victims, Hanlon said she started to feel something different.

"It's almost restored my faith in humans," Hanlon told The Billings Gazette. "I used to say I don't pray for humans anymore, I pray for humanity."

"But there's good people out there," she said. "People who are willing to say enough is enough, stand up and, you know, be loud about it."

It's been a long few years for Hanlon, who reported to police in April 2008 that her daughter's teacher at Senior High, Stacey Dean Rambold, had raped her then-14-year-old daughter, Cherice Moralez.

Rambold, who was a business and technology teacher, was immediately placed on leave by school officials. Six months later he was charged with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent.

Prosecutors said Rambold used his position as a teacher to groom a vulnerable teenage girl into a sexual relationship.

But as the criminal case dragged on, Moralez's struggles grew more grave. She took her own life in early February 2010, three weeks before her 17th birthday.

The deal

As a result of her death, prosecutors offered Rambold a deal: The charges would be deferred for three years if he completed sex offender treatment and admitted to one of the felony charges.

Rambold took the deal in July 2010, but he violated the agreement last year when he was kicked out of treatment.

Prosecutors revived the charges against Rambold last December, and he later pleaded guilty to a single count of sexual intercourse without consent.

At Rambold's sentencing hearing before District Judge G. Todd Baugh on Monday, Hanlon begged the judge to put Rambold in prison.

Prosecutors asked for a prison sentence of 20 years, with 10 years suspended.

Instead, Baugh gave Rambold, now 54, a 15-year prison sentence with all but 31 days suspended. Rambold got credit for one day he previously served in jail.

During the hearing, Baugh said Hanlon's daughter was "older than her chronological age" and had some control over her relationship with Rambold.

Baugh has since apologized for those statements, but maintains the sentence is appropriate. 

Hanlon, who stormed from the courtroom in a rage after hearing the sentence, could not have known how her daughter's case would reverberate across the globe.    

'Cherry'

To family and friends, Cherice Marie Moralez was known simply as "Cherry."

The oldest of Hanlon's four children, Cherry was a smart, independent and mischievous child, her mother recalled Thursday.

"She was a fabulous daughter," Hanlon said. "I mean, you know, she got in trouble, got her butt whipped a few times."

Cherry's grades in school — first at Garfield, then Orchard, Lewis and Clark, and Senior — were good and bad, depending on her interest and attendance.

She liked to read, was smart and artistic, and shared a love of music with her mother.

"We used to listen to music all the time," Hanlon said with a smile.

Hanlon and Cherry's father divorced when the girl was 9 or 10. Hanlon said it was an amicable divorce, but Cherry took her parents' split hard.

"I think until the day she died she thought we would get back together," said Hanlon.

It was during her freshman year at Senior that Hanlon said her daughter changed. Usually outgoing and happy, Cherry turned "dark" and evasive. Hanlon didn't know about the relationship her daughter was having with Rambold until several months after it began.

Things went from bad to worse for Cherry when publicity about the allegations against the Senior High teacher hit the local news.

Cherry became even more withdrawn, refused help from school counselors and only pretended to participate in therapy through a private counselor, Hanlon said.

"She didn't want to talk about it," Hanlon said. "She clammed up."

The allegations against Rambold became the topic of speculation at school.

"She kept trying to go to school," Hanlon said. "She was miserable there."

Cherry left Billings between her freshman and sophomore years to live with her grandmother in Whitehall.

After a short time, Cherry returned to Billings, but not to school.

She spent time with other teens who had dropped out, her mother said, and avoided her family as much as she could.

"She was running with her buddies," Hanlon said.

She couldn't run far enough.

At the court hearing Monday, Hanlon told the judge that Rambold's actions were a "major factor" in her daughter's death. 

Hanlon said she now hopes that others will learn from her family's loss.

"If you're being harassed, if you hurt, talk anyways," she said.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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