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Penn Valley child molester sentenced to 15 years

Matthew Bell

A Penn Valley man charged with molesting two girls was sentenced Friday to 15 years in state prison after accepting a plea agreement.

Matthew Thomas Bell, 34, was arrested in May 2018 and had been charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious acts and one count of rape by force or fear, as well as special allegations of having substantial sexual contact and multiple victims.

Authorities accused Bell of molesting a girl younger than 14 years old between November 2012 and November 2014, and of raping a different girl, who was between 14 and 17 years old, between May 2014 and May 2016.

The younger girl told someone about Bell in late 2015. The second girl told her story afterward, prosecutors said.

Bell would have faced 15 to 45 years or life in prison if he had gone to trial and been convicted.

He pleaded no contest in January to one count each of continuous sexual abuse of a child younger than 14, and rape by force or fear.

Nevada County Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger followed the plea agreement, sentencing Bell to 15 years in prison with 20 years on parole after his release. Conditions include lifetime registration as a sex offender, no contact with his victims, and GPS monitoring for the term of parole.

The girls’ grandmother spoke at Bell’s sentencing, calling him a “master manipulator” who was helpful and charming, and who had the extended family fooled. The victims, she said, live in fear he will be able to replicate his aberrant behavior in the future.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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