A kidnapping suspect in Ohio who prosecutors characterized as a “serial abductor” and a “monster” has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for targeting young girls in their own homes.
Justin Christian was arrested late last year and pleaded guilty in Cuyahoga County Court last week to kidnapping, rape and burglary, according to a statement from the FBI’s Cleveland Division.
According to investigators, the 30-year-old kidnapped a 6-year-old girl from her home in Cleveland and sexually assaulted her. Before that, he tried to take a 10-year-old girl from a home in Elyria right out of her own bedroom.
“You were cruel and heartless to those children,” Judge Nancy Russo told Christian in court on Thursday before accepting the plea agreement.
FBI agents began looking for Christian after he kidnapped a 6-year-old Cleveland girl.
Surveillance video from the nearby homes shows him loitering outside the girl’s home on May 14, May 15 and May 20, and police say he was staking out the neighborhood. He returned before sunrise on May 21, entered the girl’s home and removed her from her bed as she slept.
Christian then drove the girl to a home in an undisclosed location and sexually assaulted her.
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In interviews with detectives, the young victim was able to describe the bedroom she was held in for 17 hours and recalled hearing a woman’s voice ask her captor if he wanted anything to eat. (Authorities do not believe that woman was aware the kidnapped girl was inside the residence.)
When it became dark outside, Christian dropped the girl off at an intersection, according to the FBI. She walked to the nearest house, rang the doorbell and asked for help. The homeowners recognized her face from media reports and called 911.
According to Cleveland.com, Christian went into the 10-year-old girl’s home on Feb. 24 and unlocked several doors and windows, investigators said. The next day, about 3:30 a.m., he used a ladder to climb to her bedroom window, then reached in through the open window and grabbed her legs.
Christian threatened to kill the girl if she didn’t come with him, but the girl got out of his grasp and ran into her father’s room. Her father chased Christian off the property with a shotgun.
‘A Parent’s Worst Nightmare’
In court on Thursday, the families of both girls addressed Christian how he’d traumatized their families.
“It’s a reminder there are monsters in this world, and no one is safe even in your own home,” the mother of the 6-year-old said in court. “Yes, I have agreed to a plea deal, not so that I can help you, but for my three daughters, so that they don’t have to come in to look in the devil’s eyes.”
“This is something that happens in the movies, not in real life,” added the grandmother of the 10-year-old victim. “It is a parent’s worst nightmare.”
Christian said little as he was sentenced. His attorney did not return PEOPLE’s call for comment.