News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2007

Ex-Somerville chief gets 18 years
Landers heads to prison after pleading guilty to sex abuse charges

By Sheryl Marsh 340-2437

A man who swore to uphold the laws of the state and to serve and protect citizens is headed to prison for sexually abusing three children.

Former Somerville Police Chief Chris Landers, 38, whispered pleas of guilty to sodomy and sexual abuse of underage children Monday in Morgan County Circuit Court.

The state attorney general's office prosecuted Landers because District Attorney Bob Burrell recused his office due to his working relationship with law enforcement.

Landers entered a plea agreement with the state and received 18 years for two first-degree sodomy counts and 10 years each for first-degree sexual abuse and enticing a child into a room or vehicle for sexual purposes.

After Circuit Judge Steve Haddock reviewed the charges and the plea agreement with Landers and his attorney John Mays, the judge imposed the sentences.

During the sentencing Landers spoke in whispered tones and answered yes to each of the judge's questions about what he did to the children.

The sentences will run concurrently, and Landers will have to serve time on one 18-year sentence.

Also, the agreement prohibits Landers from applying for probation.

Haddock placed Landers in the custody of a sheriff's deputy, who took him to the county jail to await transfer to a state prison.

Victims present

Landers' underage victims watched as the deputy handcuffed him and took him out of the courtroom.

Landers was police chief at Somerville from October 2004 to January 2006. He resigned for personal reasons, reports show.

During an interview after the hearing Monday, Assistant Attorney Generals Gerri Grant and Josh Bearden told how the sexual abuse started.

Bearden said that in 2000 Landers married the children's mother.

"Six months after the marriage, he sodomized two of the children with oral sex," said Bearden.

The children were ages 2, 4, and 8 and the abuse lasted four years, Bearden said.

"He attempted something with the oldest child and the mother came home in the middle of the day," said Bearden.

Grant said the mother came home and found the oldest child coming out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her. She said that's when the mother talked to the oldest child and the other children to find out what was going on. She "kicked him" out of the house, he said.

Bearden said the children did not know that Landers was abusing each of them.

Grant said if Landers had gone to trial, one of his relatives would have testified against him.

"There would've been testimony from one of his relatives that he (Landers) had apologized and promised to get help before charges were brought," Grant said. "He didn't do so, and the relative turned him in."

Also, the children's mother reported Landers to the Department of Human Resources, Grant said.

Both prosecutors said they were happy that Landers admitted to the charges, so the children would not have to re-live what he did to them.

Bearden said there was a reason for them coming to the sentencing hearing.

"Their mother wanted them to attend sentencing to see the punishment involved when someone does such things," Bearden said.

Grant said the children were willing to testify about the abuse because, "They didn't want it to happen to another child."

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