BEDFORD — A former Liberty University professor will spend 35 years behind bars for sexually soliciting an undercover cop posing as a 13-year-old.

Stephen James Kilpatrick, 64, was found guilty in a June jury trial of five counts of soliciting sex from a minor. His attorney, Matthew Pack, has signaled he’s looking to work with attorneys from Washington, D.C., to appeal the case.

At the end of the trial, the jury recommended Kilpatrick spend 35 years in prison, which Bedford Circuit Judge James Updike upheld Tuesday.

According to evidence presented in the case, Kilpatrick started exchanging messages with someone he thought to be a 13-year-old girl named Jenny in November 2017, with their conversations frequently turning sexual.

He messaged “Jenny” back and forth over the course of seven months and initiated sexual conversations with her after learning she was 13 years old, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Stickney said while arguing for the 35-year sentence. Kilpatrick suggested meeting several times and tried to find the Forest apartment where “Jenny” lived before his arrest when trying to meet her.

Stickney said she both agreed and disagreed with aspects of a court-ordered evaluation of Kilpatrick: agreeing that he’s a smart man who’s not immature in thought but disagreeing with the evaluation’s finding that he wasn’t considered predatory or opportunistic.

“Mr. Kilpatrick is a predator in the very nature,” she said.

Kilpatrick testified during his trial that he didn’t believe he was actually talking to a 13-year-old girl but rather an adult adopting a persona of a 13-year-old girl.

People who met Kilpatrick through work at Liberty or through church testified that he was an active volunteer whose faith governs his conduct and character. His wife talked about his history of “profound” health issues and said he never exhibited any unusual behavior around young girls when their daughter was growing up.

Pack pointed out that Kilpatrick had no criminal history and asked that his client’s time be reduced to 10 years, the mandatory minimum sentence from his charges.

Updike didn’t make any comment on the case after imposing the jury’s 35-year sentence on Kilpatrick. Under Virginia law, he’ll be eligible for geriatric parole after he serves five years of that time.

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Rachel Mahoney covers courts for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5554.

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