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One sentenced as sex offender

Freddy Hovater pleaded guilty to child abuse, a felony offense, and assault third degree with sexual motivation Feb. 25. Monday, sentencing was handed down.

Hovater, 74, 110 Iris Lane, Spruce Pine, was sentenced to a 10-year split sentence. He will serve 18 months in the county jail, followed by five years of probation, and will be required to register as a sex offender at the highest level.

Hovater, a minister, was arrested in October 2012 after sexual actions were determined to have taken place with his neighbor’s child, who was 8 years old at the time.

“It was the oldest case on the docket that had gotten continued multiple times,” district attorney Joey Rushing said.

“What makes this case different is he was a preacher; I think he might even still have a church,” Rushing said. “He has been a long-time preacher in the area.” The neighbor child and her family were at one time members of the congregation where Hovater was a preacher.

Rushing said although he and the victim’s family were willing and prepared to go to trial, being able to settle out of court was a favorable result.

“There’s nothing more difficult to prosecute than a sexual case with a child victim,” Rushing said.

The family’s main goals were that Hovater serve jail time and be required to register as a sex offender, both of which were part of the sentence. Additionally, the victim’s mother wanted a chance to speak to Hovater in court.

“She got her chance to have her say before he was sent off,” Rushing said. “She said he had put them through so much, and she never thought he could do this to her child.” Rushing said the mother also invoked the name of God and asserted that He will deal with Hovater.

“She had trusted him – as much as you would trust anybody,” Rushing said.