Area man sentenced for abuse of boy

Judge Doyle called Robert Lee Zeek ‘monstrous, selfish’

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The father of a young child who was sexually abused by his “trusted” baby sitter asked Blair County President Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle to put the Duncansville-area man charged with the offenses behind bars for the rest of his life.

Doyle, while not sending the 57-year-old defendant to prison for life, imposed a sentence Tuesday that will keep him in a state prison until he is at least 81 years old.

The judge called what Robert Lee Zeek did to the youngster when the child was 8 and 9 years old “a monstrous betrayal of trust,” and she described Zeek as a “monstrous, selfish” person for abusing the boy who was among three children he baby-sat.

Zeek received consecutive sentences of six to 12 years on each of four counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and a concurrent sentence of six to 12 years for unlawful contact with a minor, making his sentence 24 to 48 years.

The defendant, who was in a wheelchair, informed his attorney, Blair County Assistant Public Defender Julia Burke, he did not wish to speak during the sentencing hearing.

Burke stated that Zeek entered no contest pleas to the five charges as a way to avoid having the children testify during what was expected to be a four-day trial.

She also pointed out Zeek, who was evaluated by the Pennsyl­vania Sexual Offenders Assess­ment Review Board, was not a “sexually violent predator,” meaning he had no obvious personality disorders.

Burke asked that Zeek be sentenced to a minimum sentence of five years.

Assistance District Attorney Amanda Jacobson requested a minimum of at least 10 years and after the sentencing hearing, said she was satisfied with the judge’s decision.

The judge stated her reasons for the lengthy sentence, one of which is that the 24-year minimum will keep Zeek behind bars at least until he is 81.

The sentence also will give him a chance to rehabilitate himself; and the victim will, by that time, be well into his adult years and no longer subject to Zeek’s abuse.

Doyle also said the sentence will serve as protection for the public.

Jacobson, in her presentation before Doyle, said Zeek “violated the victim’s innocence over and over again.”

“He took advantage of (the boy’s) young age and innocence for his sexual pleasure,” the assistant district attorney said.

Zeek, who had no previous criminal record, was depicted as a man who led a quiet life.

He was close to the area family and became its “trusted babysitter,” according to Jacobson.

The sexual abuse of the boy came to light last year when an adult overheard the children talking among themselves.

Court records indicate the investigation by Pennsyl­vania State Police began in March 2017.

The prosecutor stated that Zeek, in addition to sexually abusing the youngster, did things to humiliate and frighten him so that he wouldn’t reveal the incidents.

The boy however eventually related his story during an interview at a child advocacy center in Bellefonte.

Doyle reviewed several snippets from the CAC interview prior to imposing her sentence.

A point made by the defense was that Zeek expressed concerns about his own mental health and even threatened suicide, but Jacobson responded that Zeek’s “concerns” manifested themselves only after his arrest.

The victim’s mother spoke, relating that the older man was not only trusted by the family, but was loved by the children, and she stated he often served as a baby sitter when she was at work.

Revelation of his acts of abuse put the family on a emotional roller coaster and eventually led to counseling for both her and her son, she said.

Despite what has happened, she and her husband — in fact, the whole family — are now closer than ever.

The children don’t understand why Zeek did the things that landed him in court, but the mother said they “hate him and don’t want to see him anymore,” she told the judge.

“I thought I could trust him (Zeek) with everything important to me,” the mother concluded.

Doyle, in her comments, emphasized how the incidents of abuse by Zeek not only impacted the young victim but the entire family.

The family was accompanied to the courtroom by Blair County victim-witness coordinator Susan Griep.