Contributed Photo: Edward Stewart, 40, was sentenced to 45 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of attempted sexual assault of a minor.
By Jon Johnson
CLIFTON – Edward Stewart, 40, of Clifton, was sentenced May 17 to the maximum term available of 45 years in prison after previously pleading guilty to three counts of attempted sexual conduct with a minor – which are classified as Class-3 felonies and dangerous crimes against a minor.
While Stewart is eligible for one day off his sentence for every seven served, the sentence will likely see him incarcerated for the rest of his life. Stewart will be 79 years old before he is eligible for release. Additionally, other counties may prosecute him for alleged sexual assault crimes that were committed in their jurisdiction.
Stewart was represented by defense attorney Dennis McCarthy, and the prosecution was performed by Greenlee County Attorney Jeremy Ford.
Stewart took a plea agreement on April 12 and pleaded guilty to the three counts of attempted sexual conduct with a minor in exchange that the prosecution drop 16 other felony counts against him. According to the plea, he faced a sentence of between 5 to 15 years on each count, with the range and other terms to be determined by the court.
On May 17, Greenlee County Superior Court Judge Monica L. Stauffer sentenced Stewart to the maximum term of 15 years on each count and ordered each count be served consecutively, giving him 45 years of incarceration.
Stewart was arrested on Jan. 13, by Greenlee County Attorney’s Office Investigator Eric Ellison after he followed up on information regarding a possible sexual assault against a child. During Ellison’s subsequent investigation, four alleged victims were identified – three of which were abused and one who Stewart allegedly attempted to lure for sexual exploitation.
According to the investigation, the abuse stretched over the period of multiple years in multiple counties, including Graham, Greenlee, and Cochise counties, and involved at least four victims who were as young as six at the time of some of the incidents.
The Greenlee County Attorney’s Office ultimately filed 19 counts against Stewart, including molestation of a child under the age of 12, three counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child under the age of 15, six counts of sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 15, six counts of sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 12 – all Class-2 felonies; sexual abuse of a child under the age of 15, and two counts of luring a minor for sexual exploitation – all Class-3 felonies.
According to Ellison’s report, Stewart appeared to attempt to hide from him when Ellison arrived at his residence on Jan. 13. At that time, Stewart’s 19-year-old girlfriend approached the officer and initially denied Stewart was there and said she hadn’t seen him in some time. Ellison would later learn Stewart had been romantically involved with the woman since she was 16 and had impregnated her at age 18. The couple had resided in Sierra Vista in a residence owned by the woman’s mother, but after the owner learned of possible meth use by the couple and saw the residence in disrepair, she kicked them out and they moved to Clifton, where Stewart had previously resided.
Investigator Ellison convinced the girlfriend that he was there to talk about the old cars they had in their yard and the woman retreated into the trailer and then returned and advised Stewart was indeed there and would come out to talk with him. After a short discussion with Stewart about the cars, Ellison pivoted to questions about the alleged molestation. Following a brief interrogation, he then placed Stewart under arrest.
Subsequent forensic interviews with three of the victims produced detailed accounts of numerous instances of abuse involving a variety of sex acts. The fourth victim advised of two separate attempts made by Stewart to convince her to join him and his girlfriend for a threesome. The first time was when Stewart was with his now ex-girlfriend and the second time was with his current girlfriend, according to the report.
During his sentencing, Stewart apologized for his actions and wished his victims the best to overcome the pain he inflicted.