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Herman Paul Bella, of Gray, now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison after his conviction for raping a young boy who stayed regularly at Bella’s mother’s house for babysitting about 10 years ago.

A former tree-service worker who is HIV positive, Bella is also accused of giving the virus to the boy during the course of the alleged rapes, though he was not charged with intentional transmission of the disease.

Bella was found guilty of raping the victim, who is now 17, when the boy was between the ages of 6 and 8 and forcing him to perform oral sex during a three-month period between 1996 and 1998. The 12-member jury retired to deliberate Wednesday a few minutes after 5 p.m. The guilty verdict was read a little more than 45 minutes later.

The teenager told jurors he was hospitalized after suffering severe stomach pains in late spring 2006. Doctors at Terrebonne General Medical Center were baffled when they discovered a rare cancer in the 16-year-old boy and had him transferred to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. There he was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system generally rare in the U.S. but commonly found in patients with advanced cases of AIDS.

At Children’s Hospital in June of 2006, the boy tested positive for HIV and human papillomavirus, another sexually transmitted disease, though doctors testified the progression of his disease suggested he was infected anywhere from six to 11 years prior.


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