A former second-grade teacher was sentenced Thursday to life in prison, with no eligibility for parole for 25 years, for sexually assaulting an 8-year-old female relative.

    Dodge City resident Tabatha Adams, 36, said she got caught up in a situation she thought she could control, but it spiraled out of control before she knew it.


    A former second-grade teacher was sentenced Thursday to life in prison, with no eligibility for parole for 25 years, for sexually assaulting an 8-year-old female relative.
    Dodge City resident Tabatha Adams, 36, said she got caught up in a situation she thought she could control, but it spiraled out of control before she knew it.
    She also said she was seeking help so she could understand not only why she got caught up in the situation, but why she allowed the victim to get dragged into it.
    "I feel very awful about what happened to her," Adams said, crying as she spoke.
    Adams, 36, was arrested in December 2007, after Dodge City police received a computer jump driver containing images that appeared to show her and Falls City, Neb., resident Zachary Noble engaging in sexual activities with an 8-year-old girl. Officials believed the photos were taken at Noble's home in Falls City.
    Adams had taught at Sacred Heart Cathedral School but was suspended following her arrest.
    She pleaded guilty to aggravated indecent liberties with a child on March 20, and additional charges of sexual exploitation of a child and aggravated criminal sodomy were dismissed under a plea agreement with the Ford County Attorney's Office.
    Assistant Ford County Attorney David Belling asked District Judge Van Hampton to impose the standard sentence.
    But Adams' stepfather, Edward Zoch of Salina, asked the court to impose the lightest possible sentence.
    "Basically, the overall narrative I have is that Tabatha's been a model citizen until these last few months, when she got involved with this guy," he said, referring to Noble. "He pulled her down the wrong street."
    Zoch said that Adams had gotten involved in a bad situation and didn't know how to get out of it.
    Adams' attorney, Linda Eckelman of Dodge City, reminded the court that as part of the plea agreement, the defense had agreed not to seek a departure from the standard sentence.
    Before imposing the sentence, Hampton said he grieved with Adams because of the cost that her offense had inflicted on her and her family.
    But the judge added: "At the same time, after reviewing the investigative reports, I think this is exactly the kind of case that the Legislature intended to address when they passed this law."
    Hampton also said he hoped the victim would recover not only from the offense, but from being separated from Adams.
    Adams will receive credit for the time she has spent in jail since her arrest, but she will not be eligible for a 15 percent reduction in her sentence if she behaves well in prison.
    If Adams is eventually paroled, she must submit to electronic monitoring for the rest of her life. She is barred from contacting the victim until the girl is at least 18.
    She has 10 days to decide whether she wants to appeal either her conviction — even though she entered voluntarily into a plea agreement — or the sentence.
    Adams also faces charges of first-degree sexual assault of a child and aiding and abetting a felony in Richardson County, Neb. Noble has been charged in Richardson County with first-degree sexual assault of a child.
    The two also face federal charges of producing child pornography.
    It was not immediately clear how Adams' life sentence would affect the other cases.

Reach Eric Swanson at (620) 408-9917 or e-mail him at eric.swanson@dodgeglobe.com.