LANCASTER – A 43-year-old Ohio man accused of raping a 15-year-old Lancaster girl he communicated with on facebook will stand trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Michael Scheetz was held to answer to five of the six felony counts against him, including kidnapping and lewd acts with a minor. One felony count was dropped from the case because the victim was not under 14 when the alleged crimes occurred, Superior Court Judge Christopher Estes ruled.
During the two-hour preliminary hearing Tuesday, the 15-year-old victim burst into tears several times as she gave detailed testimony on the events that led up to the alleged sexual assault.
The victim testified she met Scheetz online, about a year ago, when she was living with her mother in Florida. She said she was surfing a dating website when she struck up a friendship with someone named “Michele Crawford” who then introduced her to Scheetz. (Later on in her testimony, the victim said she eventually came to believe that Scheetz, “Michele Crawford,” and another person identified as Scheetz’s daughter “Hannah” were all probably the same person.)
The victim said she communicated with Scheetz through facebook, Yahoo and Gmail accounts and sometimes by telephone. She said she vented her problems to Scheetz who frequently spoke of getting her away from “all the drama.”
The victim moved back to Lancaster around December of 2011, and was placed in a group home because of problems she suffered at home, according to testimony. She said she continued to confide her problems to Scheetz and he developed feelings for her.
“He told me he fell in love with me because of my eyes, the way I looked and my personality,” the victim said.
Communications between the two were X-rated at times, with Scheetz detailing sexual acts that he wanted to perform on her, the victim testified. She said Scheetz knew that she was 15 and she knew that he was 43.
Last month, Scheetz said he was going to catch a bus to Lancaster, and on Sept. 30, Scheetz called and said he was in town, the victim testified. He said he would be taking her to a safe house for teens, the victim said.
“I was glad that he was in town because he was helping me get out of the situation that I was in,” the victim said.
The girl said Scheetz told her to meet him at the Burger King on Avenue I and 13th Street, “when everybody went to bed,” so she packed a bag and left the group home around 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 30.
When the two met up behind Burger King, Scheetz immediately ordered her to walk 20 feet in front of him without looking back, the victim said. She testified the two walked for more than an hour before they got to the University of Phoenix’s Lancaster campus on Avenue J. Once there, Scheetz took her behind a building grabbed her by the cheeks and put his tongue in her mouth, the victim testified.
He then ordered her to follow him to a tree in the middle of a field near the campus, and left her there, while he went to see if “police had followed him,” the victim testified. She said Scheetz came back with drinks, and then left again and came back with food.
Around midnight, Scheetz asked her to make love, and when she refused, he said “too bad,” the victim testified.
The victim burst into tears as she told the court that Scheetz ordered her to remove her pants and then raped her.
“I didn’t know what to do because his weight was on me,” the victim testified. She said after the act, she drifted in and out of sleep, and Scheetz eventually left the site again.
“I was scared to leave because I didn’t know if I was gonna see him again walking,” the victim said.
The victim was reported missing from her group home around 2:24 a.m. on Oct. 1, testified Lancaster sheriff’s deputy Brian Clinkscales.
Clinkscales said he searched the victim’s room at the group home and found a cell phone number written on a notebook. Authorities were able to “ping” the cell phone to the vicinity of 15th Street West and Newgrove Street, where Scheetz was found talking on the cell phone, Clinkscales said.
Scheetz gave detectives several different stories about why he was in California, testified Lancaster sheriff’s detective Bradley Feehan.
He first denied knowing the victim and said he was only in California to look for work, Feehan said. Then Scheetz admitted to knowing the victim, but said he thought she was a 22-year-old prostitute living in a Sierra Highway motel, Feehan testified. Scheetz changed his story again, saying he was aware of the victim’s age, but he had come to California to have sex with her for money, Feehan testified.
“I told him I didn’t believe what he was saying and I was also concerned for her safety,” Feehan said.
Scheetz came clean about the victim’s location once he was taken to the Lancaster Station, Feehan said. Scheetz was put in a patrol car, and he directed deputies to the victim, Feehan said.
“She started crying and said, ‘he raped me,’” Feehan said.
A motion to dismiss the case from Scheetz’ defense attorney was denied, and Scheetz was ordered to stand trial on five felony counts. Prosecutors said they intended to add more charges to the case based on Tuesday’s testimony. Scheetz was ordered back to custody on $1,275,000 bail, and is due back in court on Oct. 30.
Updated 10/17/2012 @ 3:15 p.m.: Scheetz will be charged with three additional felony counts – forcible rape, attempted kidnapping, and making criminal threats – according to Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami.