MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A South Carolina man was given the maximum sentence for abusing three young children in Montgomery County - one as young as five years old - over the span of several years.
Ralph William Gallagher, 31, was sentenced on four felony charges last Thursday, including one charge of sexual performance by a child, two charges of indecency with a child by sexual contact and one charge of child pornography.
Judge Lisa Michalk sentenced Gallagher to the maximum prison time allowed by law on each charge. This means he'll serve three life sentences plus 10 years and will be served a $20,000 fine.
Michalk granted the state's motion to cumulate, or "stack," the sentences so that each will begin after the previous sentence ends.
The child abuse cases against Gallagher date back to 2016.
That year, authorities say he moved in with the victims' family part-time to help care for their three children - ages five, seven and nine - after their mother was involved in an accident and was placed on bed rest.
From 2016 to 2019, Gallagher stayed with them every summer and Christmas, becoming a trusted member of the family. Authorities said the children would sometimes call him "Uncle Ralph," and would even have his own Christmas stocking.
On Dec. 6, 2019, the oldest of the three children (who was 12 years old at the time) told a school counselor that Gallagher had been "touching her inappropriately" and "exposing himself to her for the last two and half to three years."
The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office ended up seizing Gallagher's cell phone.
The 12-year-old was interviewed by the county's child advocacy center and told an investigator that Gallagher took pictures of her without clothes on.
After being granted a cell phone search warrant, investigators found sexually explicit photos the girl and a child pornography video from Christmas Eve 2016 in Gallagher's Google and Dropbox accounts.
The boy in the video was identified by his mother as the family's middle child, who, according to investigators, "is on the autism spectrum" and would've been seven at the time the video was taken.
According to a statement issued by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday, the oldest of the three children, who is now 14, testified in court and explained how she wanted the abuse to stop.
"The jury heard evidence from the oldest daughter describing how [Gallagher] abused her so often over the years that she thought it happened in everyone's house and was just a part of growing up," read the statement.
The jurors also heard evidence regarding the youngest child, who also revealed abuse by Gallagher between the ages of five and seven to a forensic nurse during her medical examination.
That's when the jury learned that Gallagher had abused all three children for years. In addition, authorities said Gallagher was already a convicted sex offender at the time of the crimes and was required to register after his 2009 convictions on two cases of sexual exploitation of a child in South Carolina, which is equivalent to possession of child Pornography in Texas.
"These jurors saw and heard things that no one ever should, but they also met a heroic young girl that showed them that there is always a light in the darkness," said Chief Prosecutor Lisa Stewart. "While the evidence will leave its mark on them, the justice they served was a light that reached beyond the children in this family to children this Defendant will never have the chance to abuse."
Gallagher will not be eligible for parole until 2123.
Man gets maximum sentence allowed by Texas law for abusing 3 young children in Montgomery County
A Texas judge granted the state's motion to "stack" the sentences so that each will begin after the previous sentence ends.
CHILD SEX ASSAULT
More TOP STORIES News