A homeless mother has been sentenced to nine years in prison for having sex with the teenage son of a family that took her in.
Tani Leigh Firkins, 31, had a three-year affair with the son of a homeless-program director that began when the boy was only 14. The victim, now 19, fathered a baby boy as a result of the affair. He could have started college this fall, but he is helping his parents raise the child.
Firkins could have been sentenced to 12 years in prison for felony sexual exploitation of a minor. The victim's family said at Thursday's sentencing in Jefferson County Court that no criminal sentence could change the fact that two families and several lives had been devastated by Firkins' betrayal of their friendship and trust.
"This is a very sad occasion," the victim's father said. "A lot of lives have been devastated. We aren't experiencing any level of joy or victory or any of those kinds of things at all."
A Friendship Betrayed
According to the criminal affidavit, the victim said Firkins first performed oral sex on him in 2000 at a storage facility in Arvada, Colo., when he was helping her move. The teen told the police the two later had sex on numerous occasions, and Firkins also videotaped the two having sex.
The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office originally filed 12 felony counts against Firkins, but 11 of them were dropped as part of her plea bargain in June. Charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, marijuana sale and distribution, and sex assault on a child were thrown out when Firkins admitted felony sexual exploitation of a child.
The victim's father said he first arranged housing for Firkins in 1993 and helped her out of homelessness three times. He said she was like a member of the family, regularly went to church with them, celebrated holidays with them and gave the victim's parents cards for Mother's Day and Father's Day.
The family first learned about the relationship between Firkins and the teen when she gave birth to their child in September 2004, prompting him to tell his parents.
"She repaid us by molesting our son for over three years," the victim's father said. "I can't imagine feeling more betrayed."
The victim told the judge Thursday that Firkins showed him pornographic materials and bought marijuana and alcohol for him and his friends. He said he had not wanted to tell his story in the courtroom but felt he had to, to prevent others from being abused.
"She is a selfish sexual predator who preyed upon me," he said.
A Possible Denver Criminal Case Awaits
Firkins apologized to the victim and his family before learning her sentence.
"There is nothing I can say to heal the pain they are feeling," she said.
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey plans to meet with the victim and his father on Sept. 6 to discuss a possible separate case there against Firkins.
The teen's father wants Firkins charged in Denver, where he said she also sexually assaulted his son on multiple occasions. He hopes a criminal case there will ultimately yield more prison time for Firkins.
"This round is over," the father said after the sentencing. "Now, we're going to Denver."
Reported by ABC News affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver.