Grand jury will hear unlawful sex case

A Parkersburg man is facing a third-degree felony charge of unlawful sexual conduct for allegedly allowing a 15-year-old girl to perform sexual acts on him after moving in with the girl and her guardian in Cutler.

The case against 26-year-old Michael Trevor Johns will be heard by an upcoming Washington County grand jury after Marietta Municipal Court Judge Janet Dyar Welch found probable cause during a preliminary hearing Wednesday to have the case continue.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Washington County Children Services began investigating Johns’ relationship with the girl last week when she posted pictures of herself, reportedly pregnant, on Facebook, said Sgt. Scott Smeeks, a detective with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

“We wanted to check on her, see what truth there was to this,” he said.

Interviewed at her high school on April 2, the girl stated she had determined she was not pregnant but did admit to having sex with Johns in Parkersburg when he had been living there, said Smeeks.

The girl also mentioned that Johns had since moved in with her and her grandfather in Cutler, but noted that he had separate sleeping quarters there.

Smeeks and Washington County Children Services caseworker Ginger Davey made contact with Johns at the residence that same day and interviewed him in Smeeks’ vehicle, which is equipped with a recording device.

Johns told investigators he and the girl had met on Facebook, had discussed their age difference, and were OK with it. Johns indicated he and the girl planned to marry, said Smeeks.

Johns also admitted to the sexual intercourse in Parkersburg but initially denied any sexual interaction had occurred while in Washington County, said Smeeks.

However, when Smeeks left the vehicle, Johns admitted to Davey that he had received oral sex from the girl since moving into the residence.

Johns’ attorney Rolf Baumgartel questioned the specificity of Johns’ supposed admissions.

“He didn’t say where the oral sex occurred. He just said it happened while he was living in Ohio,” noted Baumgartel.

But Davey said Johns’ comments indicated the incident had happened in the Cutler home.

“I believe he said it happened while the grandfather was in town,” she said.

Johns also insinuated the event happened in the Cutler home during a phone call made from the jail to the victim, said Smeeks.

“He told her ‘Do you remember when you came up and woke me up …. in a good way. That’s why I’m in here,'” Smeeks said.

In the recorded phone calls, Johns also urges the girl to tell investigators he was asleep when she performed the act and that he did not ask her to do it, said Smeeks.

Smeeks said he did not believe Johns was asking the girl to lie. But in asking for a continuation of Johns’ $15,000 bond, Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Rings said it did seem like Johns was trying to mold the girl’s testimony.

Johns’ also has multiple past addresses, including in Alabama, and a previous escape conviction for absconding from home confinement, said Rings.

Baumgartel argued that Johns had ties to Parkersburg and was not a threat. Though still a crime, the act was consensual, pointed out Baumgartel.

“It’s not like he’s out there preying on juveniles,” he said.

Welch said she was not prepared to modify bond while Johns was still using the girl’s address as his own and bound the case over to Washington County Common Pleas Court.