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Connellsville man gets up to year for holding girl, 17, captive in apartment

| Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A Connellsville man was sentenced Friday to serve up to a year in state prison for holding a 17-year-old girl against her will in his apartment in March.

Fayette County Judge John F. Wagner Jr. sentenced Chad Lewis Echard, 26, formerly of 54 Gibson Terrace, to serve six to 12 months.

The sentence will run consecutively to a one- to two-year sentence that Echard is serving on a probation violation that stemmed from an indecent assault charge involving a 16-year-old girl.

Wagner imposed the sentence via video conference.

Echard pleaded guilty in July to charges of statutory sexual assault, unlawful restraint, terroristic threats, corruption of minors, simple assault and harassment, according to court records.

Wagner sentenced him on the statutory sexual assault charge, with the other charges included as part of that sentence.

“I regret my actions, and I ask that you grant me mercy so I can return to society” and live responsibly, Echard told Wagner.

Echard held the girl in the apartment for more than seven hours, police said. She escaped about 9:30 p.m. March 29.

The girl went to Echard's apartment to retrieve some items about 2 p.m. When she arrived, Echard would not let her leave, police said. He pushed her to the ground, shoved her into a chair, knocked her down and banged her head on the floor, authorities said. He would not let her answer her phone.

The girl told police she screamed numerous times for help and for Echard to leave her alone.

Neighbors told police they heard a woman screaming about 8 p.m., as well as “big bangs.” They said they heard a girl “screaming bloody murder” and heard her say, “Get off me.”

The girl finally was able to contact a friend. At that point, Echard ordered her to leave the apartment, grabbed her by the neck and pushed her out the door, police said.

She told police that Echard said he would kill her if she called police.

Police found the girl with red marks on her neck and face.

Wagner imposed the sentence after expressing reservations about the terms of a previously negotiated plea, which called for Echard to serve six to 12 months, to run consecutively to the sentence he currently is serving.

“I'm not sure I, in good conscience, can do that,” Wagner told counsel.

The lawyers negotiated a different plea agreement — the sentence that eventually was imposed — which Echard told Wagner he accepted.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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