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Man sentenced to 9 years for sexual misconduct

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@wabashplaindealer.com

A 23-year-old from Claypool was sentenced to nine years for sexual misconduct with a minor in Wabash Circuit Court on Monday.

Dylan J. Houser was arrested in 2017 after the family of the 14-year-old victim came forward and said that Houser had engaged in sexual intercourse with their daughter more than 60 times in both Wabash and Kosciusko County.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Houser married the victim’s sister in 2015. Shortly after, the couple hosted their siblings at their residence for sleepovers about twice a month. The victim’s parents began to notice that Houser had taken a particular interest in his sister-in-law, who was 13 years-old at the time, and was texting her frequently.

The victim’s parents recovered her phone to monitor their text messages. They told police the nature of their conversations were similar to how a man might speak to his girlfriend, according to the affidavit.

According to a statement from the victim’s father, their concerns grew and they continued monitoring conversations and talking with their daughter. Around that time they had a conversation with Houser about the nature of his conversations with their young daughter.

Houser “confessed” he was molested as a child and told his in-laws he was remorseful that they thought he was a pedophile, though the family “had made no such accusations and were set back by (his) theatrics.”

The family then tried to resolve the issue within their church, but the father of the victim said in the affidavit that he felt the conversations with church leaders did not have much effect.

All of the victim’s devices were eventually taken away to prevent any further conversations from taking place between her and her brother-in-law. After finding the victim had found an older device to continue communicating with him, her parents questioned her and she confessed that they had kissed on multiple occasions and that they were in love.

Months after this occasion, when the father said he felt things had finally resolved, he discovered that Houser had purchased a device for the victim so they could continue communicating in secret. After the activity continued against the parent’s wishes, they sat their daughter down and questioned her and she confessed they had been having sex and had engaged in intercourse over 60 times.

The parents went to police, and Houser was arrested on charges with sexual misconduct with a minor in Kosciusko County and Wabash County, a Level 4 felony.

Houser’s attorney David Kolbe asked Judge Robert McCallen III to consider mitigating factors in the sentencing hearing, including the lack of any prior convictions on Houser’s record and that he is “likely” to respond well to probation. Kolbe also said the entering of a guilty plea shows Houser’s remorse and acceptance for his actions.

Throughout the court proceedings, court officials acknowledged letters that had been written defending Houser’s character and “placing blame” on the victim, claiming that the interactions were consensual. However, the State of Indiana does not recognize the age of the victim as a reasonable age to be a consenting adult. Further, McCallen said he can’t “understand” how a child could be held responsible for these actions.

Houser stood before the court Monday and said he alone is responsible for the misconduct, and that no blame should fall on the victim or her family.

Emotions ran high in the courtroom during the defense’s comments, and some people present on behalf of the victim either left the courtroom or were asked to leave due to disruption. The victim, who was present for the sentencing, was visibly shaken.

John Howard spoke on behalf of the victim, saying what Houser did had “torn our family apart,” isolating them from their church and their friends. He said the victim had been in counseling for over a year and is barely comfortable talking about what happened between her and Houser.

Houser said he didn’t know where he went wrong.

“I was the adult. I made the choice 100 percent,” he said.

Prosecutor William Hartley Jr. said the court should consider the victim’s age in their sentencing decision and the number of occasions that Houser engaged in intercourse with the victim.

The recommended sentence for a Level 4 felony is six years, and McCallen said he prefers to start at the recommended time and add or subtract time based on mitigating and aggravating factors. While Kolbe suggested that Houser would respond well to probation or a short term, McCallen said he wasn’t so sure.

He said the victim was not only related to Houser through marriage, which is one aggravating factor, but that each instance of offense required time and planning, “so these were not just casual rendezvous.”

In addition, he said the damage done to the family as a whole is an additional aggravating factor.

As a result, Houser was sentenced to serve nine years with one year suspended concurrent with his sentence in Kosciusko County Jail.