Plea deal stands: Abuser won’t register as sex offender

Dean Stauffer initially charged with sexual assault but pleaded to abuse charge

Dean Stauffer appears in Ionia County District Court on Feb. 6, 2018 in Ionia, Mich.

IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — An Ionia County judge decided Tuesday to abide by the terms of a plea agreement and did not make a man initially charged with sexual assaulting a child register as a sex offender.

Dean Stauffer was initially charged in 2016 with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct — which, if convicted, would have required him to register as a sex offender — and aggravated indecent exposure, but eventually reached a plea deal to admit to lesser charges of second-degree child abuse and indecent exposure.

The case involves a now-6-year-old girl who was 5 years old when she told her grandmother and mother that Stauffer had abused her.

“You are a sex offender, Dean Stauffer, not a child abuser, and you should be labeled as such. Everyone should know,” the girl’s mother said when given the opportunity to speak in court Tuesday. “Is it OK to trivialize the abuse that actually occurred and hide the fact that it was sexual in nature? No. It’s not OK with the people, it’s not OK with me and it’s not OK with the victim.”

The mother, who 24 Hour News 8 is not identifying to protect the identity of the victim, also said that Stauffer’s explanation for certain parts of the accusations doesn’t add up, specifically regarding digital penetration. She said her daughter has been potty-trained for three years and doesn’t need helping wiping, and even if she did, his explanation still doesn’t make sense.

“I have probably changed 5,000 diapers over the years and I can honestly say that not in all those years have my fingers accidentally slipped into a child’s vagina ever,” she said.

Ionia County Prosecutor Kyle Butler spoke publicly about the case for the first time Tuesday, saying he could not go into detail until now because the case was still open. Butler contradicted much of what the girl’s mother said in her statement, claiming that the girl’s sister made statements to police that suggested she didn’t believe the abuse had happened. He also said there was no physical evidence: Stauffer’s DNA wasn’t found on the girl’s underwear and medical staff didn’t report any physical trauma to the girl.

One diagnosis made at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital did point to sexual abuse, but Butler said it was inadmissible in court.

“That diagnosis was probable pediatric sexual abuse, but (it) is not something that the prosecution can use as evidence due to case law, you cannot use that as evidence to convict someone of a crime like this,” Butler said.

Butler also revealed that Stuaffer took two polygraph tests during the investigation. Michigan State Police initially said he passed the first test but later decided it was inconclusive. Stauffer went on to conclusively pass a second test.

The mother told Target 8 after the sentencing that Butler never told her about conflicting statements to police involving her daughters, but that it doesn’t surprise her because her older daughter had a hard time processing what happened to her younger sister.

“It wasn’t for many months before she made up her mind and decided that, after reading the documents, she believed me,” she said.

The mother wanted Judge Suzanne Kreeger to disregard the plea agreement and make Stauffer register as a sex offender. An online petition that garnered thousands of signatures made the same request.

But in the end, Kreeger decided to honor the deal.

“I think everybody in their heart of hearts wants justice to be served, and while I wish I knew exactly where the truth lies, I do not,” Kreeger said. “He will be punished accordingly for what he has accepted responsibility for. … Had he been convicted of CSC, that would have without question required the registration under (the Sex Offender Registry Act), but it is not required under the charges for which he has been convicted, so this court will recognize (that).”