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Ex-Bedford paramedic sentenced to three years for sexual contact with minors

An ex-lieutenant and paramedic with the Bedford County Department of Fire and Rescue was sentenced May 31 to three years in prison for having sexual contact with two 17-year-old girls.

One of the victims, now 18, testified at Larry Scott Hawkins’ sentencing hearing in Bedford Circuit Court. He pleaded guilty in February to one count of soliciting a minor in relation to that victim and one count of assault and battery in relation to a second victim.

Reading from a prepared statement from the witness stand May 31, the victim said she’s suffered from PTSD, severe anxiety and depression since Hawkins had sexual conversations with her online for a four-month period starting in late 2017.

She said she’s also sleeping poorly and having trouble communicating with her father after her contact with Hawkins.

As a fire and rescue volunteer in Bedford County, she said she’s encountered tensions in that circle since the case has progressed.

“I can’t go to any fire functions without being stared at or called names,” she said.

Bedford County Administrator Robert Hiss said May 31 that Bedford County Department of Fire and Rescue employees went through mandatory discrimination and harassment training in June 2018, in response to investigations and about four months after Hawkins’ arrest. Jack Jones, chief of Bedford County Department of Fire and Rescue, was unavailable for comment May 31.

The victim told Hawkins from the stand that she forgives him and won’t let his actions keep her from pursuing her dreams of being a police officer like her father.

“I do not like you, but I do not hate you,” she said.

Other witnesses who’ve responded to calls with Hawkins from the Montvale Volunteer Fire Company, where he was chief for 10 years, spoke of all the people he’s helped and lives he’s tried to save as a first responder. They said he has mentored a number of young people involved with fire and rescue, both male and female; one said Hawkins is “one of the best paramedics I’ve ever seen.”

Hawkins, 53, was terminated from county employment weeks after his arrest in February 2018. On May 31, he said he’s been working as a truck driver after he was granted bond.

He apologized to the victim and insisted he wasn’t grooming her or the other victim to lower their inhibitions toward sexual contact.

“It’s just one of those things of being misled,” he said.

When needled by Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Stickney on that statement, Hawkins said the victim told him she was 18 on multiple occasions. He also acknowledged he knew she was a high school student in late 2017 when he met her and learned she was taking college courses.

He claimed their relationship was “just a friendship, that’s all it was.”

The second victim also interacted with Hawkins in a fire and rescue setting: Stickney said Hawkins rubbed her thighs, kissed her neck and rubbed up against her sexually in a vehicle bay. Search warrants indicated his conduct with her was caught on camera.

Stickney called him a “predator” wearing a uniform who would prey on the girls by gaining their trust.

Dirk Padgett, who represented Hawkins, said no other young people his client has mentored have made similar allegations against him. He asked for suspended time for Hawkins so he can continue to take care of his mother, who lives next door to him in Montvale.

After the hearing, Padgett said Hawkins is not a predator and merely experienced a “lapse in judgment.” He said he expects Hawkins to do well once he gets out of incarceration and returns to being a productive member of society.

Hawkins will be required to turn himself in on June 7. After he serves three years in prison, he’ll be on supervised probation for four years and need to be on good behavior for 10 years or else face more prison time that Updike suspended.

He’s forbidden from unsupervised contact with any minor, any contact with the two victims and will need to register as a sex offender.

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