Virginia Beach, Va.- Michael John Cardinal will spend the next 12 years in prison for sexually abusing the step-daughter he adopted.
“I really trusted this man,” said Samantha Cardinal, now 18 years old. “My step-father is the father I only knew. I called him my hero.”
Samantha told NewsChannel 3 the abuse began when she was in the sixth grade. She was 12-years-old.
“At first I thought that’s just what normal daddies did,” she said. “It was mainly me and him in the house, no one ever heard anything, no one ever saw anything.”
Samantha said like many sexual abuse victims, she was too afraid to tell anyone, but when she was 15, a movie made her realize what she had to do.
“I was watching actually a Lifetime movie and something just impacted me, and I started crying,” she said. “That’s when I realized this did happen to me. I do need to speak up.”
Samantha went to police early last year. Detectives say Cardinal admitted to touching her during a phone sting operation.
During sentencing in Virginia Beach circuit court Monday, Cardinal maintained his innocence and said he still loves Samantha like a daughter.
“I don’t feel like he’s ever going to give me the closure of saying ‘I’m sorry,”‘ she said. “I know it’s never going to happen, and it doesn’t need to happen, because he got what he deserved.”
Samantha said every victim deserves the vindication she got with Cardinal’s 12-year sentence. She said she came forward and put her painful past on display to give others like her courage to do the same.
“I want people that have been sexually abused, been abused in general, to speak out and have the courage to say something about it because justice can be served,” Samantha said.
Samantha was in Cardinal’s care partly because her mother, Anne-Marie Cardinal, was in prison. She served three years in prison after running an illegal daycare in her Virginia Beach home. Nine month old Hannah Weiss died in Anne-Marie Cardinal’s care in 2005.