In Great Falls on Monday, a Missoula County District Court judge sentenced a woman to 50 years in prison for selling a five-year-old girl to a man for sexual purposes.
Judge John Larson sentenced Corena Marie Mountain Chief, 43, to 100 years in the Montana Women’s Prison with 50 years suspended. She will not be eligible for parole for 25 of those years, and she must register as a tier 1 sex offender.
She received credit for nearly two years of time served.
Mountain Chief was charged in 2019 with sexual abuse of children and trafficking of persons, both felonies, after a 12-year-old girl reported that Mountain Chief had sold her to Edwin Eugene Sherbondy, who sexually abused her when she was five years old.
The trafficking charge was later dismissed.
The girl came forward after seeing 77-year-old Sherbondy’s mugshot when police charged him with child endangerment and trafficking of persons in an unrelated case.
On Sept. 25, Sherbondy was sentenced to 40 years in prison with 25 suspended for trafficking of persons, as well as another 5-year suspended sentence for witness tampering. He’s currently housed at the Riverside Special Needs Unit in Boulder.
Mountain Chief’s first trial in October of 2019 ended in a mistrial after the jury could not reach a verdict. At a second trial, a new jury found Mountain Chief guilty of sexual abuse of children.
At her sentencing hearing, Mountain Chief spoke about her drug and alcohol abuse, saying she’d suffered a loss in her family and was raising her children by herself when the incident occurred.
She said she didn’t know what happened during “the Sherbondy incident” but apologized for not protecting the victim. She told the judge she hopes to get help because she believes she needs it.
Brian Smith, Mountain Chief’s attorney, asked for a five-year sentence arguing that it was his client’s first felony and that she could be treated in the community.
Smith said at one point, the state offered a pleas agreement to resolve the action with “a fraction” of the punishment Mountain Chief faced after her trial. He asked that the state not punish her for exercising her right to trial.
Larson said that if Mountain Chief is released on the suspended portion of her sentence, she will be subject to “no tolerance” supervision, meaning she will not receive any warnings if she violates her parole.
Mountain Chief’s crime was an “extremely disturbing, serious offense” to a child who depended on her for safety, Larson said.
He said although drugs and alcohol played a role, they were no excuse for the crime.
Criminal justice reporter Traci Rosenbaum reports on law enforcement issues for the Tribune. Reach her at email@example.com or 406-791-1490.
Follow her on Twitter @GFTrib_TRosenba.
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