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  • Last modified 73 days ago (Feb. 16, 2017)

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Adoptive grandparent accused of 12 sex crimes

A grandfather who adopted his three granddaughters after his daughter was murdered by her husband has been charged with a dozen allegations of indecent liberties with a child.

Jerry Thouvenell, 56, Marion, was arrested Feb. 3 by Marion police on 12 counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child younger than 14.

State law forbids release of the names of victims in cases like this, using only initials and years of birth in a complaint filed with the District Court.

The offenses allegedly involved three victims between Jan. 1, 2012, and Aug. 8, 2016.

One victim was 9 or 10 years old at the time of the first incident. A second was 10 years old at the time of the last alleged incident. The third was between 5 and 10 years old at the time.

In each count, Thouvenell is accused of unlawfully engaging in lewd fondling or touching of a child with the intent to arouse or to satisfy sexual desires of himself or the child.

He also was charged with one count of battery against a child 10 or 11 years old.

Police also arrested Thouvenell’s wife, Sheila, 50, on three counts of aggravated intimidation of a witness. Between June 30 and July 31 of 2015, she allegedly prevented a witness younger than 18 years from reporting his alleged crimesShe also faces two counts of aggravated child endangerment. One allegedly occurred between June 30, 2014, and Aug. 7 2016, and the other between June 30, 2015, and Aug. 8, 2016.

In each count, she is charged with recklessly causing or permitting a child younger than 18 to be placed in a situation that compromised life, body, or health.

The Thouvenells took in the children of their daughter, Kandi, in 2010 after she was murdered by her husband, Davin Sprague. The couple formally adopted them in 2012. A fourth child also lived with them.

Police chief Tyler Mermis took the children into protective custody. They were transferred to state custody for placement outside the home.

The Thouvenells bonded out of jail same day they were arrested, Jerry on a $50,000 bond, and Shelia on a $15,000 bond. Officials did not report their arrest until a week later.

Assistant attorney general Melissa G. Johnson is handling the caseCounty attorney Courtney Boehm, who took office after the investigation began, reported having a conflict of interest. “I haven’t looked at it all and I can’t do anything on it,” she said. “The attorney general’s office acts as a resource for us. They do conflicts and provide assistance on higher-level cases.”

Mermis referred questions about the case to Johnson, who declined to comment and referred inquiries to the attorney general’s press contact, who did not return a phone call by press time.

The Thouvenells will be in court Feb. 27 for bond hearings.

Last modified Feb. 16, 2017

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