A man who claimed to be a hero after his 10-year-old stepdaughter was badly burned in an apparent house fire has been jailed – after he admitted spraying the girl with lighter fluid after raping her.
Chris Newberry, 31, had raped the girl before spraying her with the fluid and setting her on fire. She survived but suffered 60 per cent burns on her body.
Police initially believed the the fire in 2009 was accidental with Newberry posing as a hero who saved the girl and other young family members including his biological daughter, 4, from the blaze.
He even gave an interview describing the 10-year-girl’s severe burns and how he pulled her from the fire.
Caged: Chris Newberry has been jailed for life for raping his 10-year-old step-daughter and attempting to murder her by setting her on fire
At the time Newberry told reporters: ‘She came out of her room, her hair, her face, her hands was all burnt up.’
‘And her clothes were stuck to her skin,’ he added looking straight at the camera.
With tears in his eyes Newberry claimed to the interviewer from KWCH eyewitness news that he pulled her from the smoke and flames.
He explained how an ‘electrical unit malfunctioned’ and overheated in the young girl’s room causing the blaze.
However, after further police investigations the awful truth of how the fire broke out was revealed. Newberry pleaded guilty to raping the girl and starting the fire.
On March 14 2009 Newberry carried his 4-year-old biological daughter out of the bedroom she shared with the victim in their mobile home in Wichita, prosecutors said.
He then raped his step-daughter, poured lighter fluid over her body and set her on fire. The girl survived the blaze but suffered burns on 60 per cent of her body.
The girl’s mother, Bridgit Newberry, managed to escape the home with three other children aged under six.
However, family suspicions and the fact that everyone escaped the home except the 10-year-old girl led to a further investigation by police and social services.
When the revelations were made the victim’s grandmother described the girl’s ordeal.
‘She was scared to death because he has threatened to hurt her or kill her and we know why she was so afraid,’ she told KWCH eyewitness news.
It was later revealed that Newberry had raped his step-daughter several times in the past.
After being charged Newberry was sent to the Larned State Hospital for psychiatric treatment. He was released when doctors determined no further treatment was necessary.
On Thursday Newberry was sentenced to life in prison plus 165 months for arson charges and will not be eligible for parole until 2047.
The girl has undergone various surgeries since the attack three years ago and has yet to recover from her burns, the judge heard.
The girl now lives with her grandmother. The state read a statement on the grandmother’s behalf in court.
‘She is doing well,’ said Sedgwick County District Deputy Marc Bennett. ‘She just made honors choir, she’s a pretty remarkable kid.’
He added: ‘Not only are there emotional scars, there are actual debilitating physical scars that she has to deal with every day. It’s hard to wrap your brain around how atrocious this crime was.’
Newberry pleaded guilty to one count of attempted first degree murder, five counts of arson and one count of rape.
The girl’s mother pleaded guilty to child endangerment and was sentenced to 12 months’ probation, which she completed in October 2010.