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Man to face jury more than a decade after allegedly molesting girl

Man to face jury more than a decade after allegedly molesting girl


VALPARAISO — More than a decade after a Hebron man is accused of molesting a girl starting when she was 6 years old, he will face a jury.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in the felony child molesting trial involving 73-year-old Thomas Sutherlin.

The case, which was filed three years ago, alleges that Sutherlin first sexually assaulted the young girl when she was 6 after the girl witnessed him watching pornography at his Hebron home, according to court records.

Sutherlin had the girl sit on his lap and watch the pornography, police said. The alleged victim remembers asking Sutherlin about a woman in the video crying and his responding in a sexual manner.

Sutherlin molested her during the incident and then justified it to the girl by saying he was punishing her, police said.

A second incident occurred when the girl was 7 and Sutherlin again said it was punishment, according to charging information.

"Mr. Sutherlin instructed her not to 'tell anyone or you will get punished,'" the girl reportedly told police. "Sutherlin told (the alleged victim) that he would tell her parents about cuss words that she knew."

The alleged victim reportedly told police she attempted to tell her parents about the abuse, which was corroborated by her parents during a police interview. The parents said they attributed the claims to their daughter having "accidentally" seen Sutherlin watching pornography, police said.

Sutherlin reportedly told police he was accused of spanking the girl on her bare behind, but only remembers giving her "light taps while fully clothed."

While he admitted to not having been alone with the girl since the incident "due to his feeling uncomfortable," he denied she had inadvertently seen him watching pornography.

The accusations came to the attention of police in July 2016, which triggered the investigation and charge dated from February 2006 to February 2009.

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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