December 18, 2014

Elyria
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29°F
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Child care employee accused of raping children will remain in jail

By Brad Dicken and Lisa Roberson

ELYRIA  —  Heather Koon, the 25-year-old day care worker facing charges for allegedly raping a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old while she was supposed to be caring for them at ABC Kidz Child Care, will remain in the Lorain County Jail on a $2 million bond, a judge ruled Monday.

(Click here for video of Koon’s initial court appearance.)

Koon was arrested Friday on the rape charges after Lorain County sheriff’s deputies investigating her boyfriend, convicted sex offender James Osborne, discovered images that reportedly show her engaging in sexual acts with the children.

Heather Koon

Heather Koon

The mother of the 2-year-old victim said deputies came to her house last week and asked her to look at a still photo that she was told came from a video of the alleged molestation. She said the photo was of her daughter’s face.

“It was very hard to see that,” the mother said.

She said her daughter told a family member, who works as a police officer, that Koon sometimes told her to lay down and be quiet. Soon after her daughter said that, the mother said, the little girl wanted to change the subject.

She said she has no plans to push the issue with her daughter and will instead rely on counseling to help her daughter deal with the trauma of what she’s gone through.

On the job

James Osborne

James Osborne

Koon sometimes worked the early morning weekend shift and the mother said she suspects the abuse likely happened after she dropped off her daughter before heading to her own job. She said Koon would be the only employee working that shift and that likely would have been the only chance she had to abuse the children.

“I can’t imagine her doing this and no one else not doing anything,” the mother said.

Attorney Carlos Johnson, who represents ABC Kidz, said when the facility learned of the investigation on Friday it came as a shock.

“She didn’t present as someone that would be capable of doing anything like what they are alleging,” Johnson said. “We don’t know if she’s guilty  —  that is for a jury to decide  —  but the day care did everything it was supposed to do to screen her as an employee.’’

Koon worked for the center from August 2012 until March before leaving for another job, Johnson said. A police report indicated that Koon was employed at an Amherst day care at the time she was arrested.

Prior to being hired by ABC Kidz, Koon passed an extensive background check through the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and FBI, Johnson said.

“She came back cleared to work in a child care facility,” Johnson said. “The state is very clear on who can and cannot work at a facility where there are children. Basically, there is almost no crime that they deem acceptable.”

The mother said she was stunned to learn what Koon — who she described as “a little odd”  —  was accused of doing to her daughter and another child.

“I really never suspected a thing, and I’m really still shocked that it was her,” the mother said.

The investigation

Johnson said the center is cooperating with authorities, including compiling a list of the children present when Koon was working there and has called in the county rape crisis center to help families.

“A lot of work is being done, and right now it appears that this is an isolated incident and there are no other allegations against the actual day care,” he said.

Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh said Monday that he couldn’t discuss the particulars of what detectives have uncovered during the course of the ongoing investigation.

“We’re obviously trying to exhaust some other leads that I really can’t get into at this point,” he said.

Dan Wightman, Koon’s defense attorney, said although he’s talked to his client, he couldn’t really comment on the case either.

“I haven’t seen any evidence yet, but I understand it’s not her,” he said.

Wightman had argued for a lower bond during Koon’s appearance before Elyria Municipal Court Judge Gary Bennett on Monday, saying his client didn’t have a criminal record.

But Elyria City Prosecutor Scott Strait said during the hearing that prosecutors have “very strong evidence” against Koon.

Strait said the “horrendous nature of the crime” warranted the $2 million bond that Bennett ultimately imposed on the two rape charges that Koon faces.

During the hearing, Koon spoke only briefly and without emotion when questioned by Bennett to make sure she understood the proceedings.

The boyfriend

According to lawyers familiar with the case and court records, the investigation began when county sheriff’s deputies and a probation officer went to Koon’s Blaine Street home in Elyria last month to check on the status of Osborne. The 34-year-old sex offender was supposed to be living on state Route 511 in Oberlin, but deputies believe he was actually living with Koon.

Osborne’s defense attorney, Mike Duff, said his client did live in Oberlin but would sometimes spend the night with Koon.

Osborne pleaded guilty in 2010 to pandering obscenity involving a minor and pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor. He was later sentenced to five years probation by county Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi, who warned Osborne that if he got in trouble he would go to prison for eight years.

Miraldi also barred Osborne from using the internet in private and required him to disclose any account passwords to his probation officer in the case, which centered on roughly 50 images of child pornography found on a computer he had taken to a repair shop to be fixed in 2007.

Workers at the shop contacted police after seeing video files depicting a man molesting an infant girl and a child being forced to fondle a man’s genitalia.

Osborne now faces charges of failing to register a change of address and for tampering with records, both felonies. He also is due in court later this week for a probation violation hearing.

The latest charges grow out of the visit law enforcement paid to the Blaine Street home on Sept. 26. When they arrived, Osborne had an iPhone on which officers discovered a photo of a preteen girl in a sexually explicit pose, Elyria City Prosecutor Matt Mishak said during a hearing last week.

Duff said his client acknowledges having an “inappropriate” photo on his phone but knows nothing about the images Koon is alleged to have produced. He said Osborne didn’t take the inappropriate image of children found on his phone, as he said prosecutors have suggested.

“I’ve been told there’s a photo on my client’s phone, and it’s our position that he downloaded it,” Duff said.

Facebook

Investigators also found a laptop, which Duff said belonged to Koon, next to Osborne, Mishak said during the hearing. Mishak also said Osborne admitted that he had been using the computer to play a game on Facebook.

Mishak said that Osborne also was the person responsible for the now-defunct “Sluts of Lorain County” Facebook page, which Koon had commented on. That page had been the subject of at least two Change.org petitions calling for its removal and also led to the creation of another Facebook page, “Misogynists of Lorain County,” that opposed the “Sluts” page.

In one screen grab from the “Sluts” page, posted by the “Misogynists” on that group’s Tumblr page, Koon defends the “Sluts” page and posting of other people’s pictures without their permission.

“Get over yourself people…don’t like it? Then don’t look and block it. News stations lawyers get the (expletive) over yourself. Once you post pictures online or send then via text they are out there for good.”

The “Misogynists” page also featured a screen grab of Koon asking for her photos to be removed from that group’s page, which posted photos and comments of those using the “Sluts” page.

“Get my picture off your page!” Koon wrote. “I am not an admin not did (sic) create that (expletive) page. I made some comments on it but now your (sic) taking (expletive) too far.”

 Warning: Descriptions that could be taken as graphic are in the video. 

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.