Nobody knows what turned Joshua L. Smith into such a monster at just 16.

But almost everyone who spoke at his sentencing hearing Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court agreed that Smith is, and forever will be, a danger to society.

Smith was convicted of brutally raping a developmentally and physically disabled teenager in September 2006 and also a 57-year-old woman on Jan. 1, 2007.

District Judge Margaret M. Marrinan sentenced him to more than 43 years in prison. With almost two years' credit for time he has served, Smith will be 45 when he becomes eligible for release.

"It's very rare for the court to say there's no hope for you," Marrinan said to Smith. "But I think that's the case here. Mr. Smith has shown no conscience and absolutely no remorse."

A jury convicted Smith, now 18, on two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in October. The jury also found there were aggravating factors in the crime, which allowed the judge to depart upward from state sentencing guidelines.

Prosecutor Heidi Westby asked the judge to sentence Smith to 173 months for the rape of the younger victim. That girl had known Smith since junior high school. She had just learned to take the city bus when he invited her to come to his house and hang out on Sept. 8, 2006.

When she got there, he led her through an outside door into the basement, forced her to perform a sex act and then raped her.

Prosecutor Jill Fedje read a victim-impact statement as the victim, now 19, stood by her side quietly weeping Wednesday morning. "I don't trust anyone anymore," the statement said. "... I still can't sleep very well and have a hard time being alone. ... I feel Josh is a dangerous person and should be locked up forever."

The victim's mother also spoke at the sentencing, saying her daughter struggles daily with fear and depression and has attempted suicide more than once.

Westby asked for a sentence of 346 months for the older victim's rape, more than twice what is recommended by guidelines. That woman, now 59, had taken a shortcut home through the parking lot of the Salvation Army on Payne Avenue shortly after midnight Jan. 1, 2007, when she was approached by Smith. He dragged her behind a Dumpster and repeatedly raped her, then dragged her, kicking and screaming, toward a tuck-under garage, where he beat, kicked and stomped her before "leaving her for dead," the prosecutor said.

Westby read that victim's statement as the tiny woman -- she is 4-foot-9 -- stood next to her.

"I had a problem at first with the fact he was only 16 when he attacked me," it said. "He was not 16. He was much much older, older than time itself, the embodiment of evil itself. I am and always will be much larger than him, stronger and braver than he could ever imagine."

The judge ordered Smith to serve his sentences consecutively and told him that if he ever gets out of prison he will be on a lifetime conditional release. She also ordered him to pay two $5,000 fines, register as a predatory offender for the rest of his life and pay restitution. Smith must serve two-thirds of each sentence before he is eligible for release.

Smith's family members refused to comment as they left, saying, "When you start telling the truth, we'll talk."

Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551