Suspect in missing Michigan State student case sentenced for child sex trafficking

LANSING - A Mason man who police have called a suspect in the disappearance of a Michigan State University student nearly a decade ago will spend more than 16 years in prison for an unrelated case involving soliciting a minor for sex.

Brad Cournaya, 50, was convicted in October on one count each of trafficking a minor for commercial sexual activity and using a computer to commit a crime.

At a sentencing hearing Wednesday morning in Ingham County Circuit Court, Assistant Ingham County Prosecutor Bill Crino said Cournaya has "almost no rehabilitative potential."

"We have a defendant who stands before you here today who has a lifelong adult criminal history of violent sexual crimes against women and children," he said.

During Cournaya's trial, prosecutors claimed he showed the girl an obscene photo of himself, along with a sex video, before showing her messages on his phone asking if she wanted to make money.

A jury deliberated about 90 minutes before returning a guilty verdict in October.

When given a chance to speak to Circuit Court Judge Clinton Canady III, Cournaya, who maintained his innocence throughout the trial, was defiant.

He decried the photos, which investigators said they retrieved from his phone, as "fabricated evidence."

"These photos, which in fact do not exist, were used to incriminate me in the jury's eyes," Cournaya said. "Mr. Crino and his detectives are the ones trying to prosecute me for a homicide. And that's what this is all about, an alleged homicide."

Cournaya has served prison time for raping a woman at knifepoint and also in a separate case involving allowing a child into his room to view pornography.

Cournaya was sentenced to probation in late 2014 for a violation involving the state's sex offender registry.

Canady ultimately agreed with Crino, saying Cournaya's "rehabilitation is not likely."

He ordered Cournaya to spend between 200 and 480 months in prison — about 17 to 40 years — on each charge, although the sentences will be served concurrently.

In October 2014, Michigan State Police named him as the only suspect in the disappearance and presumed death of Krista Lueth, an MSU student who had been his girlfriend.

Lueth's body has not been found. Her driver's license and other personal items were found along U.S. 127 south of Lansing, near where Cournaya's vehicle had broken down the night she disappeared, police have said.

State police also investigated the child solicitation case. After the trial ended, state police Detective 1st Lt. Tom DeClercq, commander of the special investigation section, lauded the work done by detectives and Crino.

DeClercq said Cournaya remains the only suspect in Lueth's disappearance. He said anyone with information about that case can call him at 636-0703.

Contact Christopher Haxel at 517-377-1261 or chaxel@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisHaxel.

Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the 10 News app now.

Have a news tip? Email desk@wtsp.com, or visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

© 2017 WZZM-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment