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Highway Patrol looks at Vitte case

Sandusky Register Staff • Feb 4, 2014 at 2:20 PM

The Ohio State Highway Patrol’s review of reports and investigations into allegations a Highway Patrol trooper watched pornography and masturbated with a preteen boy is ongoing, according to a spokeswoman.

“The Patrol continues to look into the allegations that were brought forward and into the investigations that have already been completed by the sheriff’s office and Family Services,” public affairs commander Lt. Anne Ralston told the Register on Friday. “We have not initiated an administrative investigation at this time as we are still collecting and reviewing existing documentation”

Ralston said the Patrol “would normally wait until the criminal investigation is complete before an administrative review would move forward”

Sandusky County officials finished a criminal investigation into Trooper Ricky Vitte earlier this month, opting against filing charges.

Vitte was also accused in 2003 of beating a 5-year-old child and later head-butting the child’s mother when she became upset. He pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of child endangerment, allowing him to continue to carry a service revolver as a trooper.

Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt said his primary reason against moving forward this time was Vitte could argue he was teaching the boy to masturbate. A sheriff’s report also states the prosecutor’s office declined to seek charges because of the time that’s elapsed since the alleged incidents occurred — about five years ago — and the lack of any physical evidence.

Vitte’s attorney, Dean Henry, told the Register that Vitte has been falsely accused.

Stierwalt has declined to respond to inquiries from the Register for clarification, and he has ignored public records requests for his file notes regarding the decision.

Sheriff’s detective Sean O’Connell never interviewed Vitte during the investigation. Vitte was in an Ohio State Highway Patrol cruiser when he led O’Connell and a deputy on a short chase after they attempted to stop him to question him about the allegations. Charges related to the alleged fleeing were never considered.

Ralston declined to respond to questions about a trooper using a Highway Patrol cruiser to flee another law enforcement agency.

A Jobs and Family Services report filed late last year said family members reported Vitte had fits of rage and broke holes in walls and damaged doors when he became angry and also had punched and pushed another child, according to a sheriff’s report filed by O’Connell. The report also included allegations Vitte twice masturbated with the boy, O’Connell’s report stated.

Vitte refused to talk with O’Connell after the traffic stop, until he talked with his attorney, Henry.

Henry told the Register he later conferenced with Stierwalt prior to Stierwalt’s decision to close the investigation without seeking criminal charges.

Vitte was returned to active duty earlier this month, immediately after Stierwalt’s decision.

“As his employer, we are now looking into those allegations and the facts that have been developed through the other investigations to determine our next steps,” Ralston told the Register.

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