A Weathersfield man is headed to prison in a sex abuse case involving three young girls from 2015 to July of 2019.

James Wells, 32, of Weathersfield, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, without the possibility of parole, after taking a plea deal Monday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

"Your behavior in this matter could be the poster child for why we have laws in our society requiring people to be registered sex offenders," Judge Ronald Rice.

Judge Rice called Wells a "textbook predator" who groomed the victims for his own perverted needs.

Wells pleaded guilty to a reduced set of charges, including rape. He was originally indicted on 14 counts.

Trumbull County Children Services Case Worker Kelly Watson read victim impact statements aloud in court. One relative detailed in a letter the ways the young girls say Wells manipulated them.

"He threatened beatings if they uttered a word to anyone," Watson read.

Wells apologized to the family of the victims, who were packed inside the courtroom.

"I'm sorry, I'm really sorry," he said.

The victims were between the ages of 8 and 12 years old at the time of the crimes. They were told no one would listen if they spoke up and let someone know what was going on.

The assistant prosecutor on the case says the investigation showed that Wells spent a lot of time grooming the victims.

"He actually had them believing they were his girlfriends," Diane Barber said, chief of the Child Assault Protection Division. 

Barber says the plea deal and sentence length is in part a result of protecting the victims from further trauma.

"In this case and in every case, we have to look at the evidence that we have, we have to look at the witnesses that we have and with these kids- I believe it would have traumatized them, even more, to come into the courtroom and to describe exactly what he had done to them," Barber said.

She says a lengthy trial would have also opened the girls up to cross-examination.

Wells has two prior convictions for rape as a juvenile. Judge Rice considered those previous cases when preparing his sentence.

Wells is ordered to register as a tier three sex offender.