More alleged victims of Saginaw priest Robert DeLand come forward Monday

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SAGINAW (WJRT) (2/26/2018) - Charges resulting from alleged sexual abuse by a Saginaw Catholic priest could be just the beginning.

The Rev. Robert DeLand

The Rev. Robert DeLand, pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Freeland, was arrested Sunday night and arraigned Monday on two charges of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of gross indecency between males.

The arrest came after a seven-month investigation that began in August, when a 22-year-old male accused DeLand of sexually abusing him at a location in Saginaw Township.

DeLand also is charged with having improper sexual contact with a 17-year-old boy from Tittabawassee Township from November 2017 until Sunday evening.

Saginaw County Prosecutor John McColgan said other alleged victims of DeLand have filed reports with authorities and are being investigated. The charges DeLand is facing currently resulted from the only two cases police and prosecutors have fully investigated so far.

Tittabawassee Township Police Det. Brian Berg said several more potential victims of DeLand have come forward Monday since news of his arrest broke.

"We have been inundated with a number of calls from individuals alleging similar acts over the last 30 years," Berg said. "So we're beginning to sort through that and contact the appropriate police agencies so that some investigations can be done."

DeLand has worked at a variety of churches during his career, but police didn't want to discuss where. Anyone who wants to file a report about DeLand's behavior is asked to call the Saginaw County Prosecutor's Office.

"The investigation is going to continue," McColgan said. "It is far from over."

Tittabawassee Township police launched their investigation in August 2017 after the initial report from the 17-year-old. Berg said he spoke with the prosecutor's office in November, when he learned Saginaw Township police also were investigating DeLand's behavior.

"We had two ongoing investigations at the same time," said Saginaw Township Police Chief Don Pussehl.

Saginaw Township police first learned of DeLand's alleged behavior in November, when the 22-year-old made a report. The two police departments and the prosecutor's office then joined forces in the investigation.

Authorities kept DeLand under constant surveillance during the investigation to make sure nobody else was victimized.

"We were monitoring his activities at the school and at after-school events," Berg said.

Police turned the 17-year-old Tittabawassee Township victim into an undercover informant after he filed a report. He helped police by taking part in a sting operation to catch DeLand in the act Sunday evening.

"He was very, very brave and very, very cooperative," Berg said.

DeLand allegedly brought the 17-year-old to his condominium in Saginaw Township on Sunday evening, where police say he performed more acts against the victim's will.

"It was almost a carbon copy of what happened to Saginaw Township's (22-year-old) victim," Berg said.

McColgan said DeLand used tactics to manipulate the two victims.

"There were a number of grooming techniques used to befriend the victim, to prey on the victim's weaknesses and to lure the victim to the residence on Mallard Cove," McColgan said.

DeLand is accused of using alcohol and the drug Ecstasy to help manipulate the 17-year-old victim, Berg said. Alcohol was used in the case involving the 22-year-old, Pussehl said.

However, DeLand currently is not facing any charges related to the drug and alcohol use. McColgan said that could change soon.

"I'm sure as the case develops, because this case is very far from over, that there will be additional charges," he said. "We're free to add any other charges at any time."

Berg added that none of the alleged sexual assault took place at St. Agnes Parish, but some took place in the church rectory. DeLand lives in the rectory during the week and told police the Mallard Cove residence is his retirement home.

Police served multiple search warrants during the investigation. Berg said authorities seized evidence from DeLand's condominium on Mallard Cove in Saginaw Township, as well as at St. Agnes Parish and the church rectory.

DeLand was arraigned Monday on charges that McColgan deemed a rough draft just to make the arrest and get the case into the court system.

DeLand was placed on a GPS tether and released from custody after Monday's court proceedings.

"His whereabouts will be constantly known to law enforcement and we will monitor that constantly," McColgan said. "If for any reason he violates the terms of his bond -- not surrendering his passports, having contact with anyone under the age of 21, having contact with either victim in this case -- he will be brought immediately before the court by law enforcement and his tether will be revoked and he will remain in jail."

In a statement released Monday afternoon, the Saginaw Diocese said DeLand has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

The diocese said it learned of DeLand's arrest from local media reports earlier in the day and it had no knowledge of the months-long police investigation.

“I am deeply distressed by this most serious situation,” said the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, bishop of Saginaw. “Clearly, the diocese will cooperate fully with law enforcement and their investigation. I ask that you keep in your prayers Father DeLand and anyone who has brought forward allegations against him.”

DeLand is pastor at St. Agnes Parish in Freeland and a judicial vicar for the diocese.

"My heartfelt prayers and support go out to the St. Agnes Parish family and the entire Freeland community," Cistone said.

DeLand did a lot of volunteer work at Freeland High School. He now is banned from visiting any district property, according to Superintendent Matt Cairy.

"Father Bob DeLand is not allowed on school grounds due to investigations into criminal complaints that we have been made aware of," Cairy said in a statement Monday afternoon. "It is in the best interest and safety of the Freeland Community School District's staff and students to keep this individual off of school property."



 
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