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Man pleads guilty to Portage molesting; denying food in hopes of favors, officials say

Man pleads guilty to Portage molesting; denying food in hopes of favors, officials say


Michael Pannell

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.

See an evening on patrol with Lake County Sheriff's Officer Stevie Gill in the sixth installment for the Riding Shotgun with NWI Cops series. Interview by Anna Ortiz. Filmed by Kale Wilk. Produced by Nat Cardona.

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."

Gallery: Recent arrests booked into Porter County Jail


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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.

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