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Man sentenced to prison after victim testified to years-long sexual abuse starting when she was 14

Robert Burns.
(Photo: New Hanover County Sheriff's Office)
Robert Burns.

A child molestation case that is nearly 20 years old has sent an eastern North Carolina man to prison for up to 20 years.

Attorney General Josh Stein said Robert Burns pleaded guilty to four counts of statutory sex offenses with a 13-,14-, or 15-year-old and four counts of indecent liberties with a child. He was sentenced to 16-20 years in prison.

Stein said everything possible has to be done to get justice for victims, no matter how long ago a crime occurred.

The survivor who testified in the case read a victim impact statement in court. She said young women deserve the chance to be confident, silly, and flattering without it being seen as a proposition.

Burns owned a comic book store in Wilmington and met the girl there when she was 10 years old. Stein said he started grooming her by giving her surfing lessons at Wrightsville Beach for some years, and began sexually assaulting the victim when she was 14 years old.

She came forward in early 2020 to disclose the abuse. The victim had also been assaulted by Peter Frank, the former New Hanover County Schools band teacher who was recently convicted on 17 counts of sexually abusing children and sentenced to at least 50 years in prison.

Annette is originally a Midwest gal, born and raised in Michigan, but with career stops in many surrounding states, the Pacific Northwest, and various parts of the southeast. She has been involved in the media industry in eastern North Carolina for more than three years. An award-winning journalist and mother of four, Annette moved to ENC to be closer to family – in particular, her two young grandchildren. It’s possible that a -27 day with a -68 windchill in Minnesota may have also played a role in that decision. In her spare time, Annette does a lot of toddler and baby cuddling, reading, designing costumes for children’s theater and producing the coolest Halloween costumes anyone has ever seen. She has also worked as a diversity and inclusion facilitator serving school districts and large corporations. It’s the people that make this beautiful area special, and she wants to share those stories that touch the hearts of others. If you have a story idea to share, please reach out by email to