Man receives 20-40 years for molestation

James Byars, 52, was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison this week for molesting a seven-year-old girl in April 2002.

“It doesn’t matter how long it’s been,” Alpena County Prosecutor Ed Black said Thursday. “These cases are going to be taken seriously and we’re going to pursue it to the fullest.”

The Alpena County Sheriff’s Office began its investigation in 2012 and the case went to trial in June, Black said. Byars already was serving time for having sex with a 14-year-old Washtenaw County girl in 2010, and had been eligible for release in 2016, Black said. However, with the new conviction, he will not get a chance at freedom until 2032.

Byars’ criminal history spanned from California to Michigan and included seven prior felonies and 10 prior misdemeanors, Black said.

“This is a perfect instance of how the justice system gets it right,” Black said. “One of the biggest problems is fear of coming forward by the victim in particular. Hopefully, there will be some iota of closure for her.”