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Mother wants accused child molester to register as sex offender

Posted at 9:17 AM, Feb 06, 2018

A mother is fighting to make sure the man she says molested her daughter, doesn't strike again.

Dean Stauffer was originally charged with sexually abusing a four year-old girl, who is a relative. On Tuesday, he'll plead guilty to 2nd degree child abuse in Ionia County Circuit Court. But that's not enough to satisfy a growing community urging the judge, to think again.

Stauffer is a father of three, accused of molesting a young relative in his care. Court documents show he would get in bed with the young girl, where he masturbated and had sex with her. The girl told her grandmother her bottom was sore, because of what the man did to her. Her mother said, the sexual abuse had been going on for months. FOX 47 has protected her identity to protect the young accuser. "I assured her that it wouldn't happen anymore and at that point, she just wanted it to stop happening, that was her main concern. She didn't want him to do it anymore." Ann Emmerich: "How did you feel when you found this out? Mother: "Enraged. Completely shocked."

The young girl's accusations and interviews were enough for police to charge Stauffer with two counts of criminal sexual conduct, three in the first degree, and one for indecent exposure. But as the months went by and the investigation continued those charges didn't stick. As in many cases involving a first time offender, the prosecutor struck a plea deal with Stauffer. The mother of the accuser said, "He had said right off the bat that he would never take any plea deal that required him to register as a sex offender, and at the beginning of the cases, that's what they were giving him."

Last December, after a year behind bars in the county jail, Dean Stauffer was released, after agreeing to plead guilty to a felony, 2nd degree child abuse. Since he's already served 12 months in jail, the deal allows him to walk free on probation. The agreement has created outrage in the small community of Portland. More than 3,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the judge to reject the deal and require Stauffer to register as a sex offender. The accuser's mother said, "I just don't think its fair to label someone as a child abuser when they really are a sexual predator."

Ionia County Prosecutor Kyle Butler did not want to talk to FOX 47 on camera, because he doesn't want to compromise the case should it end up going to trial. But, in an email, he said balancing justice with unintended consequences can be tricky, especially when the young child is related to the accused. Butler said, "I walk in the pain of victims every day. I see first-hand how victims are affected by these cases and having to testify in court." He called the online petition "inflammatory, inaccurate, lacking of details, and not well thought out by the creator." He also said it "leaves out the fact that the defendant will have a criminal history and anyone-including people looking to hire, get volunteers, chaperones, coaches, and so on-can (and should) look this person up on ICHAT after he's sentenced and see that he has a criminal history involving child abuse." Butler went on to say, "The petition incorrectly assumes that people on the sex offender registration do not have contact with children...people registered under SORA can and do go to parks, waterparks, malls, amusement centers, children's playgrounds, movie theaters, locker rooms, grocery stores, and so on. This petition seems to assume that just because a person is registered under SORA, that they don't go to these places or have access to children. Nobody is doing background checks or checking ID's of strangers hanging around any of these places I mentioned. We walk among these people every day and don't even realize it."

Former Criminal Defense Attorney Ron Bretz said, "I've never heard of an instance where the sex offender registry has saved somebody from being the victim of a sex offense. I'm not sure it does. It probably makes us feel better that there is such a thing." Bretz spent years defending sex offenders. He said, "The fact that the prosecutor is so willing to offer this deal, tells me that the prosecutor has some big weaknesses in his criminal sexual conduct case. Children make bad witnesses and its not their fault." Bretz said, often in cases of criminal sexual assault against a child, he says There's no physical evidence to support the child's story, because they don't always tell someone right away. He added, "Many of them don't even understand what's happening, and some of the ways children have chosen to describe what happened to them or what they witnessed, is pretty interesting."

But the mother of Stauffer's accuser believes her daughter is a credible witness and is willing to put her on the stand to get justice "This little girl did not make up these specific graphic details. And I have faith that, my daughter is now 6 1/2 and would be old enough to make a good enough witness in front of a jury to realize that, that what she's saying is true."

The prosecutor disagrees, saying his office has kept the child's mother in the loop all along explaining why the case should not go to trial. He said, "Overall, this case was reviewed by many professionals in law enforcement. Many factors had to be taken into consideration and in the end, I am confident of the decision that was made regarding the plea offer and I stand firmly behind it."

The mother of the accuser says she just wants to protect other children."I don't want a trial. I want for him to register as a sex offender. That really is my main goal because I don't want there to be more victims."

There is still a chance Stauffer will have to register as a sex offender. Bretz said the judge can hold a hearing to determine if the child abuse was sexual in nature. If she finds it does, she can amend the deal to require Stauffer to register as a sex offender.

We did reach out to the judge and Stauffer's attorney for this story, but neither would talk about it on the record. Stauffer is due in Ionia County Circuit Court Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. We'll let you know what happens next.