Jacobsburg man charged with multiple rapes

WOODSFIELD — A 72-year-old man accused of multiple rapes over a period of more than 30 years has been arrested and is facing charges.

On Thursday, a special session of the Monroe County grand jury returned an indictment against Richard A. Hess Sr. of 59342 Crozier Ridge Road, Jacobsburg. He is charged with five counts of rape of a child younger than 13 years old, four counts of gross sexual imposition and one count of importuning, all felonies.

Monroe County Prosecutor James L. Peters said Friday that Hess was in the Monroe County Jail with bond set at $1 million. He is scheduled to appear in court at 9:30 a.m. Monday for arraignment before Common Pleas Judge Julie Selmon.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the charges are based on alleged offenses against a continuing stream of victims. The crimes reportedly date back to as early as 1988 and continue through this year.

“The indictment is the culmination of an almost decades-long and continuing investigation by both the Monroe County and Belmont County sheriff’s departments. I want to specifically thank Detectives Ryan Allar (of Belmont County) and Mike Russell (of Monroe County) for their perseverance in keeping this case active,” Peters said.

“It began as an investigation, I believe, a couple times in Belmont County,” Peters said. “We did investigate it here in Monroe County in 2017. At that time, the victim, we felt, was probably unlikely to be able to testify. However, we do believe and have some confidence that she is willing and able to testify at this point, so we made a decision to file charges here in Monroe County for all of the victims, because much of his conduct has crossed the border back and forth from Belmont County back to Monroe County and then back to Belmont County, and we believe it constitutes a continuing course of conduct that would allow us to prosecute it here,” Peters said.

Peters commented on the complexity of pursuing sexual assault cases involving children.

“I know there’s a lot of public confusion on why it takes so long to prosecute these cases, but what we see is children specifically disclose incrementally over a period of time, and it’s not until these disclosures reach a certain point that the case is able to be prosecuted,” he said. “That leads to public frustration. That leads to frustration on our part, that we’re not able to prosecute sooner. We do have to feel that we’re in a position that we can successfully execute a case before we charge an individual.”

“I wish they hadn’t taken so long to get an indictment, but these things aren’t easy. They take time to do it right, and sometimes you don’t have enough to file something and take it the distance,” Allar said. “I’m very glad we’re finally there, to where we’re able to proceed, but I do regret that it took this long to make that happen.”

Allar added that the first Belmont County investigation occurred in 2010, after sexual crimes were alleged in Belmont County.

“At the time (it was) decided there wasn’t enough to go forward with,” Allar said. “When you’re not able to make a case, you just don’t throw it away, you keep it laying around. You hope that something will come loose down the road that will help you build up that case, and that’s what happened here. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen as quick as we’d like, but it happened.”

Allar said the alleged crimes have impacted Belmont and Monroe county residents, with Monroe County investigators becoming involved in 2017.

“I think both counties have an equal stake,” Allar said. “It was very excellent to work with Monroe County. Sheriff (Charles) Black (Jr.) has a lot of excellent investigators over there, and it was a pleasure to work with them.”

Anyone with information regarding Hess’ alleged crimes is asked to contact Allar at 740-695-7933 or by email rallar@belmontsheriff.com or to call Russell at 740-472-1612.

“We don’t have a lot of information about specific other victims, but based on Mr. Hess’ sort of pattern of conduct over a number of years, we do believe there is a possibility that there could be more victims out there, and that’s why we’ve asked anyone in the public that has knowledge to come forward so we can follow up any leads and hopefully prosecute everything all at one time rather than a bunch of separate prosecutions.

“I really do think there are more victims out there, and I really hope that they come forward,” Allar said, adding that any additional information could assist in the investigation. “Anybody that contacts us doesn’t have to go on official record. There’s been people that have done that on this case already.”

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