NEBRASKA CITY – A military veteran, prison worker and former Methodist pastor was sentenced Monday to up to 85 years in prison for sexual assault of a child.

Otoe County Public Defender Michael Ziskey asked the court for a 20-year sentence saying 46-year-old Ray Underwood could benefit from rehabilitation services.

He said the Syracuse man was impacted by multiple tours of duty to Iraq and the high stress case work at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution. He said Underwood began using child pornography as a way to cope with stress.

Ziskey said the addiction to pornography developed into abuse of his victim, who was born around the time Underwood  was pastoring churches in Exeter and McCool Junction in Nebraska.

Underwood told the court that he did not feel he could seek help for the pornography addiction.



Underwood: “I genuinely feared that I would have been prosecuted for doing that and, because of the debt that we had accumulated while doing my pastoral job in Exeter and McCool, I genuinely feared for my family’s welfare.”

Underwood said he was under constant stress at work and  often suffered from emotional and spiritual exhaustion.

Underwood: “I unfortunately would resort back to the unhealthy … unhealthy coping skills that I had developed and I’m deeply sorry for that.”

 Otoe County Attorney Jennifer Panko-Rahe said Underwood sought his own desires at the expense of a child. She asked the court for a 99-year sentence followed by another 20 years on the additional count.

Panko-Rahe: “He was a man she looked up to and a man she loved. He violated everything about that.”

Judge Julie Smith said Underwood would serve 37.5 years before he is eligible for parole.