WEST BATH — A Topsham man pleaded guilty Wednesday in West Bath District Court to sexually assaulting a female minor over a period of over nine years that began when she was 7 years old.

As part of a plea agreement, Robert Welch, 63, pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawful sexual contact and two counts of gross sexual assault.

“The abuse progressed as the years went on and regularly occurred throughout her life,” Sagadahoc County District Attorney Jonathan Liberman told Justice Daniel Billings of the assaults that took place between October 2008 and June 1, 2017.

Three of the unlawful contact charges are Class B felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison, while the fourth is a Class C crime punishable by up to five years. The gross sexual assault counts are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Welch is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 5 and Liberman said the state will argue for an overall sentence of 20 years, with all but a cap of 12 years suspended, and six years probation.

Welch was arrested June 5, 2017, and initially charged with gross sexual assault for allegedly engaging in a sexual act with a person under 18, court documents show. He was released on bail from Two Bridges Regional Jail later that month.

In August 2017, he was indicted by a Sagadahoc County grand jury on 20 sex crime charges. This included 10 counts of unlawful sexual contact – all but one Class B crimes against a minor under the age of 12 according to court documents – and 10 counts of gross sexual assault.

By pleading guilty to the felony crimes, Welch cannot use or possess firearms and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Billings said during the plea hearing Wednesday.

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