MECKLENBURG COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A former teacher has been found guilty of molesting more than a dozen of his students back in the 1970s and 80s.
A jury found John Thomas Patterson guilty on one count of 1st degree sex offense. He was also found guilty on 172 counts of indecent liberties with a child.
"When I heard the guilty, I was pleased, surprised" said G. C. Campbell, one of more than a dozen former students who told the jury Patterson molested them.
Campbell said as he waited for the verdict to be read, "I could feel it in my chest. My chest was tightening. My stomach was uneasy - the anticipation."
Campbell said he was nine years old when Patterson violated him.
Patterson is a former 4th grade teacher at Mt. Mourne Elementary School in Iredell County.
He looked straight ahead as the judge read each verdict.
Campbell said "I had to keep listening over and over to make sure that I kept hearing guilty on each charge. There were so many charged and I wanted to make sure that's what I kept hearing over and over."
Campbell told WBTV "justice was served and hopefully it will stop others from having to go through this."
Before the judge sentenced Patterson, victims spoke, as did a mother of one of the victims.
She said Patterson was able to walk the streets for the last 30 or 40 years while all these men had demons inside that Patterson created.
The judge told the victims he hopes they can heal moving forward.
Fourteen former students testified against him in the trial. They said at the time they didn't know what Patterson did to them was wrong. And when they figured it out later they were ashamed.
"The guys that were there today that was all ten-year-old kids giving handshakes and hugs, wasn't thirty or forty-something-year-old men. That's what it was all about. So those were the kids who have now spoken thirty years later and they've gotten justice," explained one man who asked not to share his name.
He says he was a victim but not part of the charges brought against Patterson in this case.
He says there are a number of victims that remain silent. He spoke to the judge before sentencing as did other victims who called Patterson a monster.
Earlier this week, Patterson took the stand in his defense and denied all the charges.
Friday morning the jury asked the judge if they could listen to a 45-minute phone call they heard during the trial.
The phone call was from 2013 between Patterson and friend who is also related to one of the accusers. Over and over again the caller asked Patterson if was guilty of the accusations.
During the phone call, Patterson never fully admits or denies what happened.
Patterson was sentenced to life in prison for one count of 1st degree sex offense and three years for each 172 counts of indecent liberties with a child.
"He was stunned and he never expected the jury would find him guilty in these cases," said Will Willis, Patterson's defense lawyer.
"He won't be able to do that to any other kids again," said a victim.
When Patterson was taken away in handcuffs one woman whispered, "Yes!"
Patterson's lawyer says he plans to appeal the decision.