Following plea, life sentence given for rape, murder of S. Ind. girl


by Sherrell Hubbard

Posted on May 19, 2014 at 2:23 PM

Updated Monday, May 19 at 7:09 PM

CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (WHAS11)-- A man who strangled a 17-year-old girl in Clarksville last year was sentenced Monday. 

Richard Hooten was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 70 years for the rape and murder of Tara Willenborg.

The Clark County prosecutor originally announced that he would seek the death penalty in the case but offered Hooten a plea instead.  Hooten accepted that plea deal in Clark County Circuit court.

“The sentencing hearing today ensures that Mr. Hooten will remain in prison and not have the same effect on another family,” Prosecutor Steve Stewart said.

 As Hooten was escorted into the courtroom to learn his fate, he issued an apology. 

"I'm just sorry for what happened,” he said, “I'm sorry for everything."

 Within days of Hooten’s arrest, he admitted that he was the person who raped and murdered 17-year-old Tara Rose Willenborg.  The attack took place at her Clarksville apartment complex in March of 2013.

Days after his arrest, Hooten candidly spoke about the crime with media. 

"I was just having sex with her and anxiety came over me, I guess. I had my hands around her throat. I just kept going and going. I didn't know how strong I was, putting pressure on her. I choked her," he said

 After the verdict was read, Willenborg’s father said, "We don't have to hear from him anymore, that's the important part." 

Natasha Robinson was in the courtroom as well.  Robinson says she was victimized by Hooten back in 2009.  He only served 6 months for that crime.

 Robinson believes this time, Hooten got what he deserves. 

"He’s just an animal, an evil person,” she said.

 Robinson said Hooten tried to rape her when they were neighbors in Charlestown.  She says he pushed her to the ground and began forcing himself on her.

"It’s hard knowing what he done to that girl,” she said, fighting back tears.