CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A 27-year-old man learned he would serve a 12 to 19 year sentence for attempted statutory rape of a child younger than 15 on Tuesday.

Caleb Matthew Hale, of Denver, pled guilty and was sentenced as part of his conviction. As part of the deal, he will serve his sentence in the custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections and register as a sex offender for 30 years.

A witness observed Hale’s crime on Sept. 7, 2021, and reported it to law enforcement. A sexual assault kit and DNA collection confirmed that Hale was the person responsible for the molestation of a 14-year-old girl, authorities said.

The teen told investigators that Hale’s abuse occurred on different occasions for ten months, starting in December 2020. In court, she stated that “no one should ever be exposed to his grooming again. I trusted him. I looked up to him … One day, he turned into a completely different person I didn’t even know existed.”

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Mike Crisp of the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case with assistance from the Children’s Advocacy and Protection Center of Catawba County.