A former dog trainer who was accused of hiding a runaway girl in his West Harford home for nearly a year pleaded guilty Wednesday in Superior Court in Hartford to eight felony charges which are expected to net him a lengthy stay in prison.
Adam Gault, 41, entered guilty pleas to two counts of first-degree kidnapping, four counts of second-degree sexual assault, risk of injury to a minor and conspiracy to commit first-degree kidnapping.
Assistant State's Attorney David Zagaja said the state is recommending a 50-year prison term for Gault, which would be suspended after 30 years incarceration. He would then spend 20 years on probation.
Sentencing was set for May 19. If he had chosen to go to trial, he would have faced a maximum of 160 years.
Judge David Gold told the defendant he was considering imposing 50 years, suspended after 25 years, but that he would consider increasing the term at the time of sentencing after getting a pre-sentence report.
Gold gave Gault the option of accepting a higher sentence, or withdrawing his guilty plea at that time.
Gault was found competent to stand trial in February. He had faced nearly 40 charges. The bulk of the charges, including kidnapping, unlawful restraint, risk of injury to a minor, reckless endangerment and sexual assault, were in connection with the Bloomfield teenager who was found in his home. The girl, who was 14 when she disappeared is now 16.
A second complaint brought by a second woman was lodged subsequent to his arrest.
At Wednesday's 90-minute hearing, Gault appeared clean-shaven, with a short-cropped hair. On several occasions, when the judge asked him how he pleaded, he responded with "I'm guilty"
His other responses were limited to "Yes sir" or "no sir."
Marc Needelman, the attorney who represents the family of the 14-year-old, said he expected his clients to appear at Gault's sentencing and also make recommendations for appropriate sentences against his co-defendants, Ann Murphy and Kimberly Cray.
Gold said they would attempt to accommodate the family by having the two women appear that day.
Gault, who lived on Newington Road in West Hartford, was arrested last June when Bloomfield and West Hartford police discovered the teenager, who had been reported missing for almost a year, in a locked storage closet behind a dresser in his home.
Gault and the girl's mother and stepfather, who operate a dog day care and kennel in Bloomfield, knew each other professionally. The girl had worked for Gault in his dog training business.
The police were executing a search warrant for Gault's house and his DNA on June 6 when they came across the locked, hidden storage space and found the girl inside. At the time, investigators believed they were searching for evidence linking Gault to the girl's disappearance and possible demise.
According to court documents, DNA testing on a fetus that the victim aborted in May showed Gault impregnated the girl.