PERRY -- A hair stylist and former Centerville salon owner was sentenced Tuesday to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole for molesting two teenage boys and sexually exploiting a third in the summer of 2011.
Matthew Caleb Pierce, 35, was found guilty by a Houston County jury Nov. 20 of six counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of child molestation, two counts of sexual battery, one count of sexual exploitation of a child and two counts of distribution of controlled substances.
Pierce was convicted of engaging in sex acts with one teenager while the boy was under the influence of alcohol that Pierce gave him. Jurors also found Pierce guilty of engaging in sex acts with another teenager who was under the influence of prescription drugs that Pierce gave him. The boy engaged in the sex acts in exchange for more of the prescription drugs, the anti-anxiety medication Xanax and the pain medication Dilaudid. Pierce also sexually exploited the third teenager by obtaining a texted photo of the teenager’s penis.
At trial, Pierce testified that the teenagers, all 14 years old at the time, made up the stories against him to avoid getting into trouble.
Before sentencing Pierce, Superior Court Judge Katherine K. Lumsden heard arguments from attorneys, listened to victim impact statements read aloud and heard from a victim’s mother and some of Pierce’s supporters. In all, 26 family members and friends filled the courtroom on Pierce’s behalf.
Comments ranged from characterizations of Pierce as “a monster” who preyed on young boys and wrecked their and their families’ lives to representations of him as a godly man who was kind to others in ways like anonymously providing Thanksgiving meals to the less fortunate.
Through tears, a victim’s mother told the judge that Pierce’s actions have resulted in her son, now 18, having problems in school, needing counseling, having anger and trust issues, having lost joy and experiencing depression.
“It stays with us every single day,” she said. “Whatever sentence he’s given is never going to be enough. It’s never going away from our heart.”
Pierce’s pastor Dewayne Evors said he had sympathy for families of the victims and of Pierce, noting that all people have committed wrongs but in no way would he justify acts such as those Pierce was convicted of at trial.
“I’m completely surprised,” Evors said. “I’ve spent many hours, and I find it totally out of character. This whole situation -- it comes out of left field to me from the Caleb I know and have shared time with as a mentor and a friend and a father-figure in his life.”
Pierce, wearing in an orange jail jumpsuit and plastic orange flip flops, often cried and wiped away tears with tissues as a Houston County sheriff’s deputy working court security stood behind him. Pierce did not make a statement.
Lumsden said whatever sentence she imposed would not satisfy all present in the courtroom, noting the wide division among victims and their families and Pierce’s family and his supporters.
Victims and their families expressed belief that there was nothing that could be done to undo the harm Pierce inflicted and a desire for nothing less than the maximum sentence of consecutive life sentences. Those who believed in Pierce and stood behind him, including a friend who told the judge the man depicted in the courtroom is not the man she knows, sought mercy and leniency.
Lumsden weighed those comments, she said from the bench, along with testimony she heard during the trial. She noted that Pierce has shown no remorse or made any statement of acceptance of responsibility.
The minimum prison time Pierce could have received was 25 years without parole. He will have to serve all 30 years in prison unless his sentence is overturned on appeal. If his appeal is unsuccessful, Pierce will be age 65 before he is released from prison. He then must serve the remainder of his life on probation as a sexual offender.
“We believe the judge considered all the facts of the case,” Assistant District Attorney Clif Woody said after the hearing. “She listened to the evidence at trial, she considered the impact statements ... and we believe it is a fair sentence.”
Pierce maintains that he is innocent, his attorney Franklin J. Hogue of Macon said after the hearing.
“Given the possible sentence the judge could have imposed under the law ... that’s better than we hoped,” Hogue said. “I thought it could be worse than that. The state asked for much more than that.
“We’re pleased but guardedly pleased because 30 years is a long time. ... He wants to appeal ... and we’ll probably start that here within the next couple of weeks.”
The appeal process could last a year or more, Hogue said.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.