A man who admitted he raped a developmentally disabled girl he abducted from her home in Sheridan, Montana was sentenced to federal prison on Thursday.
Rodney Zahn, 60, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Missoula to 10 years in federal prison.
Zahn pleaded guilty in January to the charge of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. He admitted to detectives that he raped the 16-year-old girl twice on their trip to Casper, Wyo. in July of 2016.
The girl's family told authorities that Zahn had befriended them while staying a camper near their home. The girl was previously diagnosed with an intellectual disability and functions at the level of a 10 to 12-year-old girl, according to her family.
A statewide Amber Alert was issued after the girl’s family realized she had gone missing in the middle of the night. Zahn and the girl were located the next day in Wyoming.
Zahn, who is a transient with ties to Billings, admitted to investigators that he had sexual contact with the girl and also admitted he knew she was only 16. The girl underwent a sexual assault exam which yielded evidence that Zahn had raped her, according to court documents.
It’s unclear which prison Zahn will be sent to.
Here is the full text of the press release from the Montana Department of Justice:
Rodney Lee Zahn, 61, formerly of Madison County, Montana, was sentenced today in federal court for transporting a child in interstate commerce with the intent the child engage in criminal sexual activity, namely sexual abuse of a minor in the third degree. Zahn pleaded guilty to the charge on January 30, 2017. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen sentenced Zahn to 120 months in prison. Following his release, Zahn will be placed on supervised release for 10 years. Zahn is also required to pay $ 773.04 in restitution to the victim, and forfeit his Ford pickup truck and camper that was used to transport the minor victim out of Montana.
In an offer of proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee Peterson, the government stated that in late July 2016, Defendant Rodney Lee Zahn befriended a family in Sheridan, Montana. This included the family’s 16-year old daughter. Due to a diagnosed intellectual disability, the child cannot make sound judgments and is at risk of being manipulated by others. On the night of August 1, 2016, Zahn met the child a few blocks from the family’s residence. Zahn and the child left Sheridan that night in his truck pulling a camper trailer. After discovering she was gone the next morning, the child’s family reported her missing. On August 4, 2016, law enforcement located Zahn and the child in Casper, Wyoming. Zahn was arrested and was interviewed. Zahn admitted that he and the child left Montana, and drove through Idaho into Wyoming. Zahn admitted that he and the child had sexual intercourse twice during the trip. Zahn also stated that he knew the child was 16 years old.
Madison County Sheriff Roger Thompson stated, “It was highly unfortunate that Mr. Zahn decided to make the decision he did that created such a grave concern for the family. Getting the victim back safely was a great outcome. The cooperation and assistance the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) provided to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office was tremendous and deeply appreciated.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation Ricky Shelbourn stated, “Rodney Zahn took advantage of a family’s trust and generosity, only to manipulate and victimize their daughter. The FBI aims to protect society’s most vulnerable from predators like Zahn. The effort is greatly enhanced because we work closely together with our law enforcement partners. In this case, inter-agency collaboration was integral to our finding the victim within 48 hours from her disappearance.”
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee Peterson and investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, and the Casper Wyoming Police Department.