Article from INDYSTAR
CRAWFORDSVILLE — A high school coach told an acquaintance in 2014 that he had been dating one of his tennis players. He also made derogatory comments about the girl’s personal hygiene.
That acquaintance is a sheriff’s deputy. But instead of asking more questions to determine whether a crime had occurred, the deputy said he “didn’t wish to hear anymore,” according to Montgomery Superior Court records. He didn’t report the conversation to authorities.
Two years later, Michael Demeter, a coach and teacher, is facing seven counts of felony child seduction. The 25-year-old man is accused of having sex with two girls who were students at Crawfordsville High School — alleged sexual abuse that occurred less than a year after his conversation with the deputy.
Demeter worked at the school in various capacities — math teacher, junior varsity girls tennis coach and assistant boys basketball coach — from August 2013 through May 2016, court records state. He left the district for a job at Wabash College, but continued as a part-time basketball coach until police told school officials in January that Demeter was under investigation.
The Crawfordsville Police Department launched its investigation after learning of the 2014 conversation between Demeter and Montgomery County sheriff’s deputy Rob Hechinger.
Casteel said the conversation between Demeter and Hechinger “could possibly lead someone to believe that something inappropriate had happened,” but the teacher never explicitly said he was having sex with the student.
Hechinger could not be reached Friday for comment.
Crawfordsville police notified school administrators, who provided police with the names of players coached by Demeter. A school resource officer, who works for Crawfordsville police, also provided investigators with the name of a student who had been rumored to be in a relationship with Demeter, but the girl denied it at the time.
When Crawfordsville police contacted her, the girl said she previously had a sexual relationship with Demeter, who had been her teacher and coach during the 2013-14 school year. She said nothing inappropriate happened until the end of the next school year. Starting in May 2015, Demeter hugged and kissed the 17-year-old after practice, according to court records. She said it progressed to oral sex and intercourse in his apartment.
The girl told police that when she tried to break off the relationship, Demeter “would constantly text her, become irate, call her derogatory names and then apologize.” He also threatened to hurt himself if people found out about their relationship, according to court records.
The girl eventually told her mother that Demeter was bothering her, and the mother contacted him through Facebook to tell the teacher to leave her daughter alone.
A second former student told Crawfordsville police that she had a sexual relationship with Demeter, who had been her teacher. Their relationship became physical in July 2015, when she was 17, and continued through the girl’s senior year and graduation, court records state. It ended during the summer of 2016.
The girl told police they fought a lot. When she tried to end the relationship, Demeter threatened to hurt himself. She described him as “possessive and mentally abusive,” court records state.
She said she eventually blocked him on social media.
Both alleged relationships developed after Hechinger, the sheriff’s deputy, had the conversation with Demeter, court records show. Indiana law requires anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect to report it to police or the Indiana Department of Child Services.
In a statement, Scott Bowling, superintendent of Crawfordsville Community Schools, said no students or parents ever reported anything to school officials about Demeter. The superintendent said Demeter was “immediately removed from contact with students pending the outcome of this investigation and is no longer employed with Crawfordsville schools.”
Casteel said he talked to the Montgomery County prosecutor, who asked him not to comment publicly on whether Hechinger would be disciplined for not immediately reporting the conversation in 2014. The sheriff said that is necessary to protect the integrity of the criminal investigation into Demeter.
Prosecutor Joseph Buser could not be reached Friday for comment.
Detective Lt. Robert Rivers, of the Crawfordsville Police Department, asked anyone else who may have been abused or anyone with information on the case to contact him at (765) 362-3762, ext. 215.
“With a case like this, you worry about more potential victims,” he said.
If you or someone you care about was sexually abused and you would like advice from an attorney about the rights and options for victims of child sexual abuse, please contact Crew Janci LLP today for a free, confidential consultation at 1-888-407-0224 or by using our private online form. We will treat you with discretion and respect.