Prosecutors say a 30-year-old Butte man had sex with a 14-year-old girl multiple times before she was reported as a runaway and later found hiding under a bed's headboard at his house.
They initially charged Cody Allen Eaton with sexual abuse of children for allegedly sending sexually explicit photos of himself to the girl. But on Thursday, a judge entered not guilty pleas on his behalf to three additional felony charges, including sexual intercourse without consent.
The other charges are one count of custodial interference for allegedly withholding the girl from her mother and an additional count of sexual abuse of children for having pictures of children engaged in sex on his cell phone.
Eaton’s attorney, Kaitlyn Lamb, has requested a mental exam of her client to determine his fitness to understand the legal proceedings, so she had District Judge Kurt Krueger enter not guilty pleas to all four charges.
Sexual intercourse without consent when the victim is under 16 years old and the defendant is at least four years older than the victim carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison and up to life or 100 years. The same maximums apply in the two charges of child sex abuse in this case. Custodial interference has a 10-year maximum.
The girl was reported as a runaway on Jan. 12, and her mother believed she might be with Eaton, prosecutors said in a charging document. Police went to his house on South Excelsior Street in Butte but did not find her there.
Eaton told police he was in the process of moving out and was home alone with his children and he had not seen the girl in question in three weeks. One of Eaton’s children told a school official that her parents were breaking up because Eaton had sex with the 14-year-old girl.
On Jan. 15, police learned of a Facebook Messenger conversation between Eaton and the girl that indicated she might be hiding in the basement of his house.
Police returned there and found a mattress in a crawl space with a backpack that was full of clothes and the girl’s Montana ID card. Eaton was questioned again and ultimately said the girl was in his house, and police found her hiding under the headboard of his bed.
According to prosecutors, Eaton admitted to helping plan the runaway and said the girl had been at his house the entire time. He also admitted to previously sending her an image of his private parts.
During subsequent interviews, he admitted being attracted to the girl and having sex with her twice. But police say Facebook conversations between the two detailed numerous sexual encounters and one included a picture of the girl completely naked.
Prosecutors say Eaton initially felt he could be a “father figure” to the girl but “eventually developed a physical and sexual attraction to her.”
“He said that he understood the law made it illegal to have sex and a relationship with a 14-year-old, but he ‘looked at her’ as if she was older,” prosecutors said in an affidavit. When asked how old she looked to him, he said “early 20s.”
During Thursday's arraignment, the only thing Eaton said was "yes, your honor" to several questions Krueger asked about understanding the charges. After the not-guilty pleas were entered, the judge remanded Eaton to jail with bond set at $250,000 pending further proceedings.