By John L. Braese
A former Vale resident will be incarcerated for at least 12 years after she and her husband were sentenced recently in Idaho for sexually abusing children.
Jennifer Magill, formerly known as Jennifer Shuck, is a 2002 graduate of Vale High School. She and her husband, Michael Magill, were accused of sexual battery of a 17-year-old girl and sexual abuse of a girl younger than 16. The pair were sentenced Friday, Feb. 19 in an Ada County Court. The sentencing came after prosecutors found videotapes secretly made of a sleeping 13-year-old girl.
The Magills were hired as houseparents at the Christian Children’s Ranch in Eagle, a position they held until their arrest in August. They pled guilty to inducing females in their care into sexual games including oral sex. The children had been placed in care due to sexual abuse in their past.
Jennifer Magill was sentenced to 30 years in prison, with parole possible only after 12 years. Her husband also faces up to 30 years incarceration, but will be eligible for parole after 10 years. Both will also serve five to 10 years concurrently for the videotaping of the 13-year-old, who was sleeping in the nude.
During the hearing, 4th District Judge Jason Scott said Jennifer Magill is “marginally more culpable” due in large part to the couple’s statements during a court-ordered psychosexual evaluation. Her husband stated in the report his actions came about due to trying to keep his wife happy in the relationship.
In statements to the evaluator, Magill said the girls enjoyed the sex games and did not suffer harm. She also disclosed in a journal an additional victim at the ranch.
In statements read at the hearing, relatives of the victims said the Magills used religion as a weapon to keep the victims quiet. The father of a developmentally disabled daughter said the Magills told the victims it was “Ok to keep secrets, even Jesus kept secrets.”
Defense attorney Danica Comstock asked the court for a six-month prison sentence for Jennifer Magill. Comstock said her client was sexually abused by her stepfather as a child, in ways “remarkably similar to what these victims suffered here.”
Paul Taber, lawyer for Michael Magill, asked the court to sentence his client to no more than five years for his part.
The state sought at least 20 years for each defendant.
“I am a good person who made terrible mistakes and hurt so many people,” said Jennifer Magill in a statement to the court. “I need help. I want help.”