Editor’s note: The following article contains some graphic information. The News-Graphic also does not include any identifying information about the victims of sexual assault.
Cody Alan Arnett was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences after jury found him guilty on seven charges relating to the rape of a Georgetown College student in 2018.
After less than two hours of deliberation, a jury found Arnett guilty on seven counts — one count of first-degree burglary, three counts of first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree sodomy and one count of first-degree tampering with physical evidence.
Following the verdict, the jury went back into deliberation for 15 minutes and found Arnett guilty on an additional first-degree persistent felony offender charge. State law prohibits the jury of knowing prior convictions as it might prejudice the jury, therefore these charges were not presented prior to the other charges. Arnett had previously been convicted of three felonies.
The trial concluded Tuesday afternoon after emotional testimony from the victim and her parents. Previously the victim’s roommates, first responders, investigators and forensic experts testified. Arnett also testified as his defense team’s one and only witness.
As the verdict was read, Arnett was chewing gum and grinned when the persistent felony offender charge was read. Commonwealth Attorney Sharon Muse also said Arnett winked and smiled at the victim as he exited the court room following his sentencing.
In her opening statement to the jury at sentencing, Muse said she was seeking maximum sentencing on each charge. Because Arnett was found guilty of the persistent felony offender charge, she was able to ask the jury to sentence him to life in prison on six of the seven charges he was facing. This excluded the tampering with physical evidence charge, which could only be a maximum sentence of 20 years. The jury went with this recommendation and gave Arnett the maximum 20-year sentence.
Arnett’s defense team attempted to blame his rough childhood, having several family members and a close friend testifying during sentencing on his behalf. The defense begged for “empathy” and “mercy” to the jury.
But Muse wasn’t buying it. She referenced Arnett’s three prior felony convictions, which have earned him a collective 26 years in prison. She said Arnett was only out of jail 76 days before he attacked the victim in her apartment back in 2018.
“Tell me, how does that earn him a chance?” Muse said. “He has more than earned a life sentence.”
Muse called the victim, her father and a probation and parole officer to the stand to testify during the sentencing phase. The parole probation and parole officer testified that Arnett would be eligible for parole in 20 years, regardless of the sentence today because of state laws. However, Muse said the parole board will look at the jury’s decision as a reference.
But it was the victim’s testimony as to how these events have permanently changed her life that had several in the courtroom in tears.
“He took my happiness,” she said, holding back tears. “He took my ability to trust. He took my sense of safety. He took volleyball from me. He took everything from me. I don’t trust to be in a relationship. I don’t trust that I can walk to my car safely. I still have nightmares. I still have flashbacks. I still remember everything he did to me, and it plays over and over again in my head.”
She went on to state that she was convinced Arnett would have killed her if she wasn’t given the opportunity to fight back.
“I think he would’ve killed me or he would’ve taken me and I wouldn’t have come back,” she said. “I wouldn’t be sitting here today. I’m begging you, please put him away for life because I have no doubt that I am an even bigger target for him now. I have no doubt that if he gets out, he would try to find me. A bad childhood does not make a rapist.”
In her father’s testimony, he similarly begged for a life sentence in order to her to be able to work through the trauma this has caused to his family.
“I’m still waiting for my little girl to come back…for her to be able to pick up the pieces and start over, for her to see her potential that she has,” he said.
He begged for the jury to “not be persuaded by the facade of a bad childhood.”
According to the arrest citation, Arnett entered the victim’s residence at Hambrick Village on Georgetown College’s campus and forced her to have sexual intercourse with him at knifepoint on at least three occasions. The victim was able to obtain the knife and stabbed Arnett multiple times before he fled the apartment, being detained by first responders while exiting the residence.
Arnett’s formal sentencing is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 4.
Kyle Woosley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.