Thursday, April 10, 2014
Sgt. Ricky Vitte Jr., 34, of the 900 block of County Road 42 in Helena, was charged with disseminating matter harmful to juveniles — one felony count and one misdemeanor.
If convicted of the fourth-degree felony, he could serve six to 18 months in prison and pay a $5,000 fine. If convicted on the misdemeanor, he could see up to 180 days behind bars and a $1,000 fine.
The Highway Patrol placed Vitte on paid administrative leave Wednesday morning, after they learned of the indictment. They have also launched an administrative investigation into the alleged sex acts, said Sgt. Vincent Shirey, an assistant Patrol spokesman.
The goal of the investigation: “Just to do a thorough investigation on the allegations and see what’s true and what’s false and what exactly happened,” Shirey said.
Sandusky County assistant prosecutor Norman Solze offered few additional details on the decision to pursue charges, other than saying Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt was the prosecutor assigned to the case.
Solze added, however, that the decision to present the case to a grand jury was made collaboratively by employees in the prosecutor’s office, and not by Stierwalt himself.
The indictment comes after about three months of conflicting information presented by public officials associated with the case.
In January, Stierwalt said he declined to charge the trooper because Vitte could argue he was teaching the boy about sex. In a police report, however, Sandusky County detective Sean O’Connell said Stierwalt’s reasoning for not charging Vitte was due to the length of time that had elapsed since the alleged incident, and the lack of physical evidence.
Ohio State Highway Patrol employees had also offered murky answers about the overall case, as well as the Patrol’s stance on Vitte’s employment and the status of an administrative investigation.
In late February, Ohio Department of Public Safety spokesman Joseph Andrews said there was nothing the Patrol could do in Vitte’s case, unless charges were filed.
— RECENT ALLEGATIONS
Sandusky County deputies began investigating Vitte late last year, after the boy and his mother spoke to Erie County Job and Family Services.
On two occasions about five years ago, Vitte allegedly showed the child porn videos while he and the boy masturbated in the same room, the boy, now a teen, told social workers. When confronted with the allegations, Vitte told the boy’s mother he was teaching him about alternatives to sexual intercourse, according to O’Connell’s report.
A brief criminal investigation ensued, during which O’Connell never interviewed Vitte.
O’Connell did, however, go to Vitte’s home in an attempt to interview him, but when Vitte arrived in his Patrol cruiser and spotted the deputy’s cruiser parked outside, he sped off, the report said.
Vitte allegedly led O’Connell on a mile-long chase before pulling over and saying he needed to talk with his attorney, Dean Henry, the report said.
For his part, Henry has been working with O’Connell and Stierwalt for more than a year as a special prosecutor for the Sandusky County prosecutor’s office.
— RAP SHEET
This recent indictment is not Vitte’s first run-in with the law outside of his duties as a trooper.
In 2003 he was charged with domestic violence after he allegedly beat a 5-year-old boy until his buttocks were bruised and bleeding, then head-butted the boy’s mother when she became upset, according to a police report.
Henry successfully defended Vitte in that case, pleading down his domestic violence charge to a lesser charge of child endangering.
Word of Vitte’s violent tendencies resurfaced late last year when social workers spoke with his children. The children told investigators they saw their father punch holes in walls and doors during violent fits of rage. At other times, they watched Vitte drag their mother into another room by her arm and yell at her, the report stated.
Henry Ford, 37, is accused of sexually assaulting a child. The alleged incident happened in an unincorporated part of Adams County. Ford worked in the jail division and had been with the sheriff’s office for eight years.
Police do not believe there are any other victims.
30-year old Christopher B. Hancock was originally arrested on Tuesday, April 8th at Newport News Police Headquarters after a five day investigation.
Detectives say it stemmed from a domestic incident that occurred with his wife at their Denbigh area home. Police say during an argument, Hancock threatened to burn their house down. A Newport News Police spokesperson said the department was notified of the incident after his wife filed a protective order with the court magistrate.
Police say Hancock was arrested at police headquarters Tuesday afternoon, charged with felony threats to burn. He was released later that day.
He was arrested again on Thursday at Police Headquarters in reference to violating a protective order. He was placed in the custody of the Newport News City Jail.
The circumstances surrounding the second arrest were not released.
NewsChannel 3 spoke to neighbors who live nearby, they say they felt safe knowing a police officer lived just across the street, that was, until they heard the news.
“You depend on the police and I was just kind of secure,” said neighbor Regina Pugh. “You depend you can go over there and I hate to think that I couldn’t for whatever reason.”
Hancock joined the Newport News Police Department on July 16, 2011 and was assigned as a patrol officer. He is presently on unpaid administrative leave.
John Wesley Padgett, 30, was charged with lewd and lascivious battery on a person under 16 years old, a second-degree felony, according to the Baker County Sheriff's Office.
The crime was reported by the victim's mother in January, according to BCSO.
The victim, now 16 years old, was a 10th grade student when the alleged encounter occurred in August 2013.
Padgett, who is married, works at the Baker Correctional Institute Department of Corrections in Sanderson.
The alleged victim told investigators with the BCSO that she had sex with a stranger who gave her a ride home from school.
During a call recorded by BCSO, Padgett admitted to the victim's mother that he had sex with the victim, according to the offense report.
When interviewed by investigators, Padgett denied any inappropriate sexual relations, according to the report.
A DNA oral swab was taken from Padgett and placed into evidence. A test will be conducted on the child once it is born in May, according to BCSO.
After his arrest Padgett was booked in the Baker County Detention Center.