The little girl endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted adult.
But, worried her sister might be next, she mustered the strength to report the molestation to ensure it ended with her.
Albert Garcia, 52, of Carol Stream, was sentenced Monday to 18 years in prison for committing predatory criminal sexual assault of a child. He also must register as a convicted sex offender upon his release.
Prosecutor Enza LaMonica said Garcia repeatedly molested the girl, beginning at about age 5, while she was in his care. The girl's mother failed to protect her daughter despite outcries for help, LaMonica said. Garcia was arrested May 26, shortly after the now 10-year-old girl told a school classmate.
"This brave little girl endured this for years," LaMonica said. "She knew she needed to get him out of the house because she was afraid he would do this to her little sister."
DuPage Circuit Judge Daniel Guerin applauded the child for her courage. Guerin said her voice has been heard, finally.
Garcia pleaded guilty Feb. 8. He faced six to 60 years in prison for the crime. Prosecutors agreed to cap his punishment at no more than 22 years in exchange for the plea deal, which spared the girl an emotional trial in which she would have to detail the abuse in a courtroom filled with strangers.
The defendant tearfully apologized at Monday's sentencing hearing and blamed his conduct on a lifelong struggle with alcoholism. He, too, suffered abuse as a child. Garcia participated in several self-help classes in the DuPage County jail since his arrest nearly one year ago, DuPage Public Defender Jeff York said.
Garcia's criminal history includes marijuana possession and seven drunken driving arrests, a handful of which earned him earlier stints in prison. He must serve 85 percent of his latest sentence before being eligible for parole.