The 28-year-old Effingham County man charged with child molestation for an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 15-year-old was sentenced in court Thursday.
Tyler David Hood appeared in Effingham County Superior Court Thursday to enter a plea to a portion of the sex crimes he was charged with back in September 2022.
Last fall, investigators with the Effingham Count Sheriff’s Office charged Hood with ten different counts of unlawful sexual acts with a minor, including Aggravated Child Molestation, two counts of Child Molestation, two counts of Statutory Rape, two counts of Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes, and three counts of Sodomy.
Hood was held without bond until four days after a grand jury formally indicted him in December 2022. At that time, Judge Michael Muldrew set a bond, ordered Hood to be banished from the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit, and be ordered to the confinement of his mother’s home in Tennessee with an ankle monitor unless he was at work or meeting with legal counsel about his case.
On Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Matt Breedon told the Court that Hood had entered into a sexual relationship with both a 15-year-old female and a 17-year-old female in 2022. Hood reportedly took the teen girls to the Rincon Inn & Suites on more than one occasion as well as a park located in Effingham County. Breedon said Hood told the girls not to tell anyone, including their parents, and instructed them to delete text messages and other communications when he learned of the investigation.
Breedon said evidence in the case file would show that Hood confessed to both the mother of the 15-year-old and his NCO in the Air National Guard before he was relieved of his duties.
Both the 15-year-old victim and her mother testified briefly Thursday before Judge Muldrew imposed a sentence. The young female told the court that she and Hood talked every day while he was deployed and that he was a close family friend who she trusted. Her mother said Hood was her own best friend before she discovered what was going on between her daughter and Hood. “You broke my family,” she told him, looking at him. “What you get is nowhere near what you deserve.”
Defense Attorney Asks for Probation-Only Sentence
Springfield defense attorney Mickey Kicklighter told the Court that this case was ‘uncommon’ and ‘unusual’ because Hood was not a predator. He said there were no elements of coercion or physical force and though the 15-year-old was not of the age of consent in Georgia, she consented to participate in the actual acts.
“The young lady told him that she was in love with him and didn’t want him to get in trouble,” Kicklighter said.
He also took issue with the argument that Hood caused all of the ruin in the victim’s life because she had a stepfather who was charged with the same crimes.
“The stepfather is the one that caused most of the damage,” Kicklighter said. He also said the 17-year-old female was the one to introduce the 15-year-old female into the sexual relationship with Hood and she was not charged with a crime, despite facilitating the acts. Additionally, an investigation, he said, was not initiated until the 17-year-old was told by Hood that he no longer wanted to engage in a sexual relationship with her.
Kicklighter spoke on behalf of Hood and offered apologies to the 15-year-old female victim, her mother, his soon-to-be-ex-wife, his own minor son, and his own family.
“He’s sorry for the hurt and damage and he never intended to cause any of it,” Kicklighter said, speaking to the 15-year-old. “You are not responsible for this.” Kicklighter also said Hood recognizes that he ruined any opportunity for a real relationship with her, at any time.
His apology to the mother of the victim was for damaging their friendship, to his wife, for disrespecting their marriage, and to his family, for dishonoring their name.
Throughout Kicklighter’s statements on behalf of his clients, parties sitting with the victim were speaking out, gasping, and making hand gestures, which ultimately led deputies to address the disruptive behavior or be excused from the courtroom.
Kicklighter concluded that Hood was ‘obviously sorry’ for what he did and that there was no likelihood of reoffending. “There were real feelings. Inappropriate, yes. Illegal. Yes,” he said, stating that everyone knew the magnitude and seriousness of the charges. Kicklighter then asked the court to consider a probation-only sentence and, if not amenable to that request, to suspend a significant portion of the prison sentence and order it be served in a detention center instead.
“If he’s behind bars, he’s not a taxpaying, child support paying individual.”
The defense also offered three witnesses – Hood’s maternal grandfather, his paternal grandfather, and a female supervisor from his job in Tennessee.
State’s Response to Defense Arguments & Sentence Recommendation
ADA Matt Breedon told the court that he waited to recommend a sentence for consideration until after the defense presented its side so he could see what the presentation was and what level of acceptance Hood was going to take.
“That level of acceptance is zero,” he said. “My recommendation is 40 years, with twenty to serve. Probation is not appropriate here. The facts were bad enough. He used his position in her life for this purpose. He had no business engaging in conversations at all and if they had a relationship, no one was telling the parents. This was not romantic. They were violent sexual acts. Consensual to an extent, because she was not fighting back, but there was choking and forced oral sodomy. If he considers that a relationship,he is a predator. I give zero credit to the letters and witnesses to everyone who testified because they have zero understanding of what occurred.”
“There is zero understanding of what this crime is. I ask the court to send a message to the defendant and also the community, who is clearly watching. What we’ve heard is appalling.”
Ultimately, Hood’s plea was to Indictment Count 2 – Child Molestation and Indictment Count 3 – Child Molestation. In exchange for the guilty pleas on the two counts of Child Molestation, the other eight charges would be dismissed. Had he been convicted of all ten counts, he would face a Life sentence plus 210 years.
Before sentencing, Muldrew admonished Hood for his responses made through his attorney.
“I’m sure your attorney did the best he could with what he had to work with. Your actions didn’t give them much to work with.
“The notion that there were “real feelings” is insulting. It’s insulting to the court to imply you didn’t destroy her innocence. The victim is a ‘child’ by any standard…I don’t know how you live with yourself. You had so much going for you and you threw it away for a perverted pleasure.”
“The court cannot render justice, it cannot restore innocence.”
Muldrew subsequently sentenced Hood to 12 years to serve in prison for Count 2 followed by 8 years on probation. For Count 3, Hood was also sentenced to 20 years on probation. Those two counts will be served consecutively. Muldrew also banished Hood from the four-county judicial circuit of Bulloch, Effingham, Jenkins, and Screven counties and ordered lifetime placement on the sex offender registry.
Hood was taken into custody immediately.
This article has been updated to reflect the sentencing paperwork that was filed in court on May 5. The sentencing paperwork did not match what was announced in court on May 4.