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Mortuary sex case widens

7-2-2010 Iowa:

MALVERN, Iowa — Stephen Beattie worked for the county roads department for 27 years. He devoted much of his adult life to responding to emergency calls for Malvern's Volunteer Fire Department.

His lifelong friend, Karl Hertz, ran the funeral home in Malvern. Hertz was a respected civic leader. At one time, he served as the small town's mayor.

Neither man had a criminal history. Both have been implicated in a case involving allegations of sexually abusing a local teenage boy.

“This was a very unsettling mattter for the community of Malvern, and those people associated with the community, because of the nature of the allegations and the people involved,” Mills County Attorney Marci McClellan said Thursday.

Hertz, 62, committed suicide April 16, several hours after sheriff's deputy Kim Clark served him with a search warrant.

Two days earlier, deputies had received allegations that Hertz and Beattie had sexually abused a 17-year-old boy who worked at Hertz's funeral home.

Hertz's death spawned a flurry of rumors in the town of 1,200 but brought few answers until Thursday. That's when authorities unveiled the results of their four-month investigation.

“I think people are glad they're finally opening up about it instead of feeling like they're pushing things under the rug,” said Angie Connor, who works at the Casey's General Store in Malvern.

Several people declined to comment for this article, citing close relationships with the families connected to the case.

“It's going to be a bad deal no matter what,” said Cindy Bowley, former owner of Bowley's Bistro in downtown Malvern.

Police arrested Beattie, 55, Thursday night at his workplace in Council Bluffs. He is charged with one felony count of third-degree sexual abuse and two serious misdemeanors: lascivious acts with a minor and indecent exposure. A conviction on the felony charge carries a 10-year prison term.

At a hearing Friday, a Mills County magistrate judge agreed to reduce Beattie's bail. He must post 10 percent of $12,000 - or $1,200 - rather than the full $12,000 in cash. James Martin Davis said he expects his client to be released from the Mills County jail later today, after relatives post the bail.

Davis told reporters after the hearing that his client did not have any relationship with the 17-year-old boy.

"I don't think there was any relationship between this boy and my client, and I am surprised they filed three charges. I think my client was just an add-on. Initially, the main thrust of the investigation was directed at the funeral director.

"I don't think there is any DNA evidence with respect to my client."

McClellan said that if Hertz were alive, he would have faced the same charges as Beattie, plus additional charges for similar acts involving a 14-year-old boy.

The age of consent in Iowa is 16.

Mills County Sheriff Eugene Goss said the criminal investigation is closed unless other youths contact his office to allege that they were abused.

The criminal complaint against Beattie makes these allegations:

On April 14, Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs contacted the Sheriff's Office about a possible sexual assault involving a juvenile boy.

A 17-year-old boy and his parents spoke with a sheriff's deputy. The next day, Project Harmony interviewed the boy and he provided details about alleged sexual encounters with Beattie and Hertz.

The boy told authorities that on April 14 he and Beattie were in the basement of Hertz's home, changing light bulbs. Beattie worked as a part-time handyman for Hertz.

The boy got off the ladder and Beattie asked him to sit on the couch. Beattie performed oral sex on the boy, according to the criminal complaint.

Hertz later took the boy to the Mansfield-Hertz Funeral Home where, according to the complaint, they performed oral sex on each other. Hertz then took the boy home.

The boy told authorities he had worked for Hertz for three years and had engaged in similar conduct with Hertz for the previous seven months.

Hertz also showed the teen pornographic images on the computer in the basement of the funeral home, according to the complaint.

On the night of April 15, the Sheriff's Office obtained a DNA sample from Hertz after serving search warrants for physical evidence from his home and businesses, including bedding, clothing and a computer.

The Sheriff's Office obtained a DNA sample from Beattie on April 16.

McClellan said April 14 marked the first time that sheriff's deputies had received allegations of sexual misconduct involving either man.

She said Hertz's suicide affected the investigation.

“This investigation was just in its infancy,” she said. “We had not had any prior contact with Mr. Hertz prior to executing the search warrant. We had not done any interviews with him yet. We did not know what we had.”

McClellan said authorities found Hertz's DNA on clothing that belonged to the alleged victim, but they did not find Beattie's DNA on the same clothing.

Davis said Beattie now works as a traveling medical equipment salesman in Iowa and Nebraska.
He said the Hertz suicide complicates the case against Beattie.

“He's a critical player who is now missing,” Davis said. “One of the key witnesses is now deceased. This kid alleges that a sexual act took place against his will, so now it's this kid's word against my client's word.” ..Source.. by John Ferak, WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

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