An elderly Washington man will spend at least the next 12 years in prison after his guilty plea this morning in Beaufort County.
Merrill Wallace entered an Alford plea to two counts of sex offense, and 21 counts of indecent liberties with a minor.
An Alford plea is taken when the defendant doesn't admit guilt, but agrees there is enough evidence to convict him at trial.
The 74-year-old was arrested last year by Beaufort County deputies who said the crimes dated back more than 50 years.
The six victims were between seven and 15 years old, and were known to Wallace.
Authorities said the man would gain the victim's trust by letting them drive a car or boat and let them sit on his lap.
Prosecutors said in order not to put the family through a trial, a plea deal was offered. "Today closes a sad chapter in the history of Beaufort County," said District Attorney Seth Edwards. "This man has been terrorizing young children as far back as the 1950s."
A judge sentenced Wallace to serve a between 12 and 20 years. After his release from prison, the man can't go within 300 feet of someone under 16, and must be on probation for five years with GPS monitoring.