Former restaurant manager gets nearly 6 years in prison for sex crimes against 15-year-old employee

photo by: Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Stephen Tyler Wampler

A former restaurant manager was sentenced Thursday to nearly six years in prison for sex crimes against a 15-year-old employee, after the victim’s mother told the court he used his position of authority to groom her for months.

The man, Stephen Tyler Wampler, 28, pleaded guilty in September 2023 to two felony counts of attempted aggravated indecent liberties with a child and one felony count of providing alcohol to a minor. As the Journal-World has reported, the girl, who worked at the Burger King where Wampler was a manager, told police that Wampler had had sexual contact with her — including in the freezer of the restaurant in July 2022 — and that he continued to flirt with her even after she told him she didn’t want to have a sexual relationship with him.

On Thursday, Judge Sally Pokorny sentenced Wampler to 34 months in prison on the first sex crime count, 31 months on the second, and five months on the alcohol count. Those prison sentences will run consecutively, for a total of 70 months, or 5.8 years. Wampler will also be required to register as a sex offender for life.

The victim was present in the courtroom for the sentencing and did not speak, but her mother addressed the court on the family’s behalf. She said that Burger King was her daughter’s first job, and her daughter was excited to earn some money on her own, but that Wampler abused her trust.

“She was 15, only a child,” the mother said.

One day, the mother said, her daughter came home and said the manager had asked her to work later shifts than what was originally discussed. The mother said Wampler contacted her personally and said that he would look out for her daughter. However, the mother said that over the next few months Wampler began manipulating the girl, giving her alcohol and marijuana and convincing her that he was the only person she could trust and confide in.

The mother said that after Wampler had sexual contact with the girl and the girl tried to end it, Wampler continued to sexually harass her at work, and that since he was in charge of the girl’s schedule she could not avoid him.

As the Journal-World reported, the girl had told police that Wampler said she could not report him, because if he went to jail no one would be there to care for his three children.

The mother said Wampler’s actions have had serious effects on her daughter’s life. She said her daughter has been in counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety and that she had to finish high school remotely. Before the incident, she was involved in numerous school activities, the mother said, but she stopped because of the shame and embarrassment she felt.

The mother said that prior to the incident, she had never needed to know what the word “grooming” meant, but now she knows that it is when someone works to build trust with another person so that they can manipulate and exploit them. She asked the court to sentence Wampler to the maximum amount of prison time possible.

“I have no idea how many other issues will come from this abuse,” she said. “He groomed her using his position as her boss.”

Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden asked the court to sentence Wampler to a total of 76 months. He said that sentencing had previously been delayed because Wampler’s attorney, Dakota Loomis, wanted Wampler to get a sex offender evaluation so that Loomis could ask for a less severe prison sentence.

Seiden said the evaluation showed that Wampler had a high likelihood to reoffend when compared to other people who have committed sex crimes. He said the report showed that Wampler had a low capacity to maintain relationships and a general hostility toward women.

“The only way the court can ensure that Mr. Wampler does not reoffend is by keeping him in custody,” Seiden said.

Loomis, meanwhile, asked the court to sentence Wampler to three years in prison. He said the sex offender evaluator had recommended that Wampler should be able to maintain his relationship with his three sons, and that a shorter sentence would better allow him to do that. Loomis also said the evaluation showed that Wampler suffered from depression and other mental health problems that wouldn’t be helped by a long prison sentence.

Wampler himself declined to address the court, but Loomis claimed that Wampler had taken responsibility for his crimes ever since he was charged.

After Pokorny sentenced Wampler to 70 months, Wampler’s mother began to shout at the victim in the courtroom and had to be escorted out of the building. A deputy with court security kept the woman occupied so the victim and her family could safely leave the building.