Decades-old sexual abuse secrets send Coral Springs man, 77, to prison

For most of her 42 years, Adriana Carvo has been haunted by a dark secret that shaped her life.

That secret – that she was sexually molested repeatedly from the time she was a toddler until the age of 10 – was an unrelenting weight she carried to Coral Springs High School, to Broward College, where she studied nursing, into a failed first marriage and finally into a Broward courtroom.

There, Carvo confronted her abuser, the man who stole her childhood: her father.

“What you did to me is something that I don’t think you can ever comprehend, how you changed my life from this perfect little girl into someone who felt unworthy, damaged, dirty,” said Carvo, trembling with emotion, looking directly at Richard Gunter.

As onlookers wept, Carvo recalled the moment she realized “my father is a monster, my own father, who was supposed to be there and protect me and teach me, and all you taught me was, you taught me about sex.

“You are no longer my father,” Carvo concluded, “and I will never think of you again after today.”

Gunter, 77, is now in prison following his conviction last month on four counts of sexual battery. In a one-day trial, a six-person jury took barely an hour to find the former security guard guilty before Judge Jeffrey Levenson imposed a mandatory sentence of life in prison for crimes that took place in the 1970s and 1980s.

The prosecution was made possible by a legislative change in Florida law that eliminated the statute of limitations for criminal or civil cases related to sexual abuse of children 16 or younger. Since the law went into effect in 2010, Assistant State Attorney Neva Rainford-Smith said she knows of no other successful prosecution for crimes that took place so long ago.

Although Carvo was the only victim named in the grand jury indictment, she was not Gunter’s only victim, according to Rainford-Smith.

Also speaking at Gunter’s sentencing were his sister, Suellen Behling, and a niece, Michelle Wilson. Both were abused by Gunter as young children while residents of Colorado and Missouri, the women and the prosecutor said.

“I have felt dirty and bad all my life, and I didn’t deserve this,” said Behling, who at 61 is a little more than 15 years younger than her brother.

“I was a sweet little girl and you took me in that bedroom. This has been a lifelong sentence for me,” Behling said in court.

Wilson, 48, called Gunter “the monster in my nightmares” and the reason “I’ve tried to forget my childhood because he ruined it.

“He made me feel dirty and that something was wrong with me, probably why I’m not married, probably why I don’t have children.”

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