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Ex-deputy faced sex charges before death

9-6-2007 Michigan:

GAYLORD -- A former Otsego County sheriff's deputy committed suicide after authorities decided to charge him with sex crimes for alleged incidents with minor girls.

Philip Wayne VanDyke, 43, died at his home last week just before his arrest on one count of accosting children for immoral purposes and three counts of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree, involving victims between the ages of 13 and 16.

The charges involved alleged illegal touching and kissing, but not sexual penetration.

Warrant information was sealed Aug. 28 following VanDyke's death, but 46th Circuit Judge Michael Cooper on Wednesday decided to open the records.

VanDyke's attorney, Joe Kwiatkowski, asked Cooper -- unsuccessfully -- to bar media from Wednesday's hearing. Case information should not be revealed, he argued, because the criminal allegations could not be settled because of VanDyke's death.

He also urged Cooper to seal the case to protect the privacy of both the accusers and VanDyke's family.

"His presumption of innocence was intact and will remain that way forever," Kwiatkowski said.

Cooper disagreed.

"I certainly understand the loss and the grieving, but I have to balance that with the public's right to know. The court cannot in these circumstances seal the records," Cooper said.

Some VanDyke family members reacted emotionally to the ruling and quickly left the courtroom.

"Obviously, they're not happy because their position is an allegation was made that was totally false," Kwiatkowski said.

He filed a motion for an immediate stay to Cooper's decision, and a hearing is set for today.

The Record-Eagle obtained police reports on the case from Otsego County Prosecutor Kyle Legel following Wednesday's hearing. The documents detail allegations against VanDyke and were obtained through the state Freedom of Information Act.

"I hope everyone remembers that he is presumed innocent. We don't have a 100 percent conviction rate, but we wouldn't have brought the charges without probable cause," Legel said.

VanDyke was accused of making a sexual proposition to a 15-year-old Otsego County girl over the Internet while still in Iraq, according to Michigan State Police reports.

He also was accused of inappropriate sexual contact with the girl and another minor girl during intermittent return trips to the United States since summer 2006.

The alleged incidents occurred between July 2006 and June this year during hunting, fishing and boating trips in northern Michigan, the report says.

The alleged crimes were reported to the Michigan State Police on Aug. 6.

VanDyke resigned in March 2005 from his 15-year career as a deputy in Otsego County to take a job with a private security contractor in Iraq. ..more.. by SHERI McWHIRTER

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