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Court of Appeals upholds sentence for former Burlington woman convicted of sex crimes against her son

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The North Carolina Court of Appeals has upheld a nine-year prison sentence for a former Burlington woman who was convicted last year of multiple sex crimes against her son, when he was between four and five years old.

Misty Dawn Amore, 49, white, formerly of Burlington, was convicted in Alamance County superior court in July 2019 of four counts of taking indecent liberties with a child, as part of a plea agreement, based on the factual background cited in the opinion issued by the Appeals Court two weeks ago.

Misty Dawn Amore

Amore was originally indicted in March 2017 on multiple felony counts of sex crimes that she later pleaded guilty to committing against her son, who is identified by a pseudonym, “Adam,” between September 2008 and October 2009, when he was four and five years old, the case background states. (The original court record from Alamance County is sealed to prevent disclosure of the minor child’s identity, according to the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.)

During the hearing in Alamance County superior court in July 2019, the prosecutor in the case recited for visiting superior court judge James P. Hill, Jr. the events that led to Amore’s indictment. In late 2016, Adam, then 12, was discovered engaging in oral sex with his 9-year-old half-sister. When his father and stepmother confronted him, Adam admitted to engaging in oral sex with his half-sister, but said he had learned to do it from his mother, Amore, according to the case background. Adam further revealed, during a subsequent medical exam and forensic interview, that his mother had taught him to perform sex acts with her and with his little sister; his mother had engaged in oral sex and sexual intercourse with him; and she had encouraged him to perform similar sex acts with his younger sister.

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Amore was approximately 37 when she committed the sex crimes against Adam, who was “as young as four or five years old,” while they were living in Alamance County, based on the factual background that was outlined during the hearing in Alamance County superior court last year.

In 2017, an Alamance County grand jury indicted Amore on multiple counts of alleged sex offenses: rape of a child by an adult; incest with a person under 13 and at least four years younger; taking indecent liberties with a child; sexual offense with a child by an adult; and two additional counts of indecent liberties with a child, all of which state law classifies as felonies.

In July 2019, Amore entered an Alford plea (maintaining her innocence while acknowledging that there was sufficient evidence to convict her) to four counts of taking indecent liberties with a child; the remaining charges were dropped, the factual background states.

The Alamance County district attorney’s office, Amore, and the child’s father and stepmother agreed to the terms of the plea agreement, which included the maximum sentence of four consecutive prison terms of approximately 2½ years each. Her sentence represented “the top of the aggravated range for prior record level II,” based on structured sentencing laws that were in effect when Amore committed the crimes, between September 1, 2008 and October 31, 2009, according to the case background.

However, Amore unsuccessfully argued on appeal that she should’ve received a shorter sentence, based on sentencing laws that took effect on December 1, 2009 and apply to crimes committed after that date, according to the N.C. courts system.

Under the previous structured sentencing laws that were in effect when Amore committed the crimes against her son, the maximum prison term for taking indecent liberties with a child, a Class F felony, ranged between 24 and 29 months for each offense resulting in a conviction, based on the case background. Under the sentencing laws that took effect in December 2009, the maximum prison term for the same crime (indecent liberties with a child) ranges between 23 and 28 months for each conviction.

Amore appealed her sentences, based on her belief that “there was sufficient ambiguity regarding the dates the offenses occurred” that Hill couldn’t have definitively concluded that the crimes were committed while the more stringent sentencing laws were in effect.

Amore insisted that her plea “only established that the offenses occurred over a broader range of dates extending into the” period when the new sentencing laws took effect, in December 2009, and she should’ve have been sentenced “under that more lenient regime,” based on the factual background.

“The state explained that the events upon which [Amore’s] guilty pleas were predicated – based on a timeline of specific acts – occurred when Adam was four or five years old,” judge Toby Hampson noted in his opinion for the Appeals Court, adding that Adam was born May 24, 2004. “Thus when Adam was four years old, the 2008 sentencing regime was always in effect,” Hampson wrote. “Moreover, Adam did not turn five years old until May 2009, over six months prior to the more lenient sentencing regime taking effect…The factual basis for the plea in this case showed Adam was four and five years old well before the new sentencing regime took effect. Therefore, there was [no] ambiguity as to the dates of the offenses such that the evidence only supported ‘suspicion or conjecture’ that the crimes occurred” prior to new sentencing laws going into effect, Hampson concluded.

Judges Donna Stroud and John M. Tyson concurred with Hampson’s opinion for the Court of Appeals.

Amore is currently incarcerated at Anson Correctional Institution, a minimum security prison located approximately 109 miles southwest of Alamance County in Polkton, and is scheduled to be paroled on June 6, 2025. Amore was previously convicted of felony larceny and felony obtaining property by false pretenses in Alamance County superior court in April 2013, according to the N.C. Department of Corrections.

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