VALPARAISO — A 46-year-old Texas man has pleaded guilty to repeatedly molesting a 10-year-old girl, including an incident of withholding food in hopes of receiving sexual favors, according to court documents.
"(The victim) said she started crying because she was 'freaking out,'" according to charging documents.
When later asked if Michael Pannell touched her on that occasion, the girl said, "not this time because she started crying because she knew what was about to happen," police said.
Pannell pleaded guilty Monday to a felony count of child molesting, nearly three years after the allegations first arose, according to the court. Two other related felony charges were dismissed.
The proposed plea agreement calls for nine years of prison time, with two years suspended and to be served on formal probation, according to court documents.
Pannell will also be required to register as a sex offender and undergo sex offender therapy if the proposal is accepted Aug. 24 by Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford.
The girl, who revealed the alleged abuse in a note she wrote and left in her stepmother's car, described several incidents of being molested by Pannell at a home in Portage between March and August 2017.
She reportedly told police she "gets kind of freaked out talking about it."
The girl's stepmother said Pannell denied any sort of sexual touching, but the stepmother was concerned because "she felt he was much too quiet regarding his denials," police said.
Pannell reportedly told police he had been accused of this sort of behavior once before in another state, "but it was apparently a misunderstanding and no police report was generated."