‘Predator’ ex-cop guilty of raping, kidnapping 4 women while on duty


An ex-Phillipsburg police officer raped four women while in uniform on the job, a Montgomery County Common Pleas Court judge ruled Wednesday.

Judge Steven Dankof announced guilty verdicts for Justin Sanderson after last week’s bench trial on 19 counts including rape and kidnapping related to three separate incidents involving four women during May and June 2017.

Sanderson, 33, was found guilty on all 19 counts considered by Dankof after he waived his right to a jury trial. Dankof said he found testimony from all the witnesses — including all victims referred to in court only by initials — “credible in every material respect.”

RELATED: Sanderson used his badge to cover his crimes, prosecutor says

Sanderson is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 12 and could face decades in prison.

“We’re obviously very happy with the verdict,” Montgomery County Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Madzey said. “I think (Dankof’s) statements even at the beginning that he found each and every one of these women credible in all accounts speaks volumes to their ability to come forward and their willingness to stand up to this person who was in a position of power.”

Defense attorneys Anthony VanNoy and Kimberly Melchor said they will file a notice of appeal after Sanderson’s sentencing.

RELATED: Ex-cop says he was ‘professional’ with prostitutes

“We’re discouraged by the verdict, obviously, and we don’t agree with it,” Melchor said. “He has a very supportive family (Sanderson has a wife and children) here and they are standing behind him. … They are just heartbroken by the verdict.”

Madzey, who said during the trial that Sanderson was a predator who used his gun and badge to shield him from crimes, that there may be other injured parties.

“We believe there could be more victims out there who were scared to come forward,” Madzey said, and that prosecutors will ask for “maximum consecutive sentences.”

Sanderson’s trial wrapped up last week after he declined to testify.

RELATED: Alleged sex assault victims of ex-cop file civil suits against him, village

During closing arguments, assistant prosecutor Dylan Smearcheck recapped the charges related to each allegation, starting with a 21-year-old woman stopped for suspicion of drunk driving whom Sanderson took back to Phillipsburg’s village office.

VanNoy had argued the sex was consensual.

“I suppose consent is the only argument you can make when your semen is on the floor of the council chambers building next to the DNA of a 21-year-old girl who is in your radio log but has no reason to be there,” Madzey said during her rebuttal close.

Smearcheck also reviewed the allegations of a woman Sanderson picked up on an active warrant and two prostitutes whom Sanderson visited in a Vandalia hotel under the guise of a human trafficking investigation that was not known about by Phillipsburg’s police chief.

RELATED: Ex-officer wants sex charges case heard by judge instead of jury

Sanderson admitted to investigators that he briefly put on a condom but said there was no sexual activity.

VanNoy told Dankof each of the women had motivation — criminal consequences or monetary gain — to change their stories. He pointed out that one victim (actually two) has filed a federal civil lawsuit against Sanderson, Phillipsburg police Chief Mark Wysong and the village.

Other than the two women in the hotel, testimony showed the victims didn’t know each other and were frightened to tell law enforcement even though friends and families urged them to file a complaint.

RELATED: Ex-cop’s rape charges stun town: ‘Too bad we didn’t act a little faster’

Asked why she didn’t call police, the 21-year-old woman said, “I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I didn’t even believe me.”

The now-22-year-old woman testified that a friend called police after he saw Sanderson’s photo associated with a media report that he was being investigated for sex crimes.

Similarly, the woman Sanderson took into custody on an active warrant said she didn’t want to report Sanderson and that it took her husband contacting a police officer friend to go forward.

RELATED: Ex-Phillipsburg cop was suspended for porn at juvenile courts job

“I knew as soon as told my parents and husband they would want me to report it,” the woman said. “I was afraid that is was his word against my word. … I thought they would sweep it under the rug or cover it up.”

Madzey said the verdict is a powerful message to victims scared to come forward.

“We trust law enforcement officers to protect us,” she said. “His actions in this case are just that must more chilling and that much more terrifying for the victims and for the community.”

MORE: Read other stories from Mark Gokavi

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow Mark Gokavi on Twitter or Facebook

DOWNLOAD OUR FREE MOBILE APPS



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

‘Malcolm in the Middle’ star Frankie Muniz 5-story brownstone destroyed by cat
‘Malcolm in the Middle’ star Frankie Muniz 5-story brownstone destroyed by cat

“Malcolm in the Middle” star Frankie Muniz didn’t lose his home in the California wildfires like other celebrities did. It was his cat that inadvertently destroyed the actor’s five-story brownstone. >> Read more trending news  Muniz left for a trip to France to attend his uncle’s funeral, and when he returned...
AAA recommends car care before Thanksgiving travel
AAA recommends car care before Thanksgiving travel

AAA suggests motorist get their cars checked out and tuned up before Thanksgiving holiday travel to avoid finding themselves stranded, according to a release. "AAA recommends motorists use a simple checklist to determine their vehicle's fall and winter maintenance needs," said AAA Tire & Auto Manager Jon Bucher. "Many of the items on...
Troy Girl Scout troops pick-up trash in honor of 3 Girl Scouts killed in Wisconsin
Troy Girl Scout troops pick-up trash in honor of 3 Girl Scouts killed in Wisconsin

Several Girl Scout Troops spent Sunday afternoon outdoors picking up trash around Cookson Elementary School and Campbell Park, according to News Center 7's Northern Bureau Chief Steve Baker.  This was done in memory of the three Girl Scouts that were killed earlier this month by a pick-up truck while they were picking up roadside trash in...
Local city to stop parking meter fines during holidays
Local city to stop parking meter fines during holidays

A moratorium on fines for time-limited parking spaces in the downtown Troy historic district will be in effect during the holiday season and through the end of January. The moratorium went into effect Nov. 15, just days after it was discussed by city administrators with a city council committee. During the moratorium, discussions and study will continue...
After 73 years, World War II veteran receives medals
After 73 years, World War II veteran receives medals

On Nov. 11, World War II veteran Earl Bailey received ribbons and medals he had earned during his service but never received. The long-overdue medals ceremony for Bailey took place at his church, Tri County Assembly Church in Fairfield, on Veterans Day. Bailey’s grandson and daughter concocted a surprise party with the help of a local lawmaker...
More Stories