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Man Accused of Sexual Exploitation of a Child; Investigators Say More Victims Possible
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
ORAN, Iowa -- A 75-year-old Oran man faces a number of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse charges involving boys under the age of 12.
On Tuesday, Fayette County authorities executed a search warrant at the home of Benton Stong. After a five hour search, investigators seized a number of computers, video equipment, photographs, videos and software that led to the charges filed against Stong.
Marty Fisher, Fayette County Sheriff, said Stong faces four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. That's a class "C" felony carrying a prison term of up to 10 years if convicted on each count. Stong was also charged with three counts of 2nd degree sexual abuse. That class "B" felony carries a term of up to 25 years in prison. The sheriff said investigators have identified four "John Doe" minors in the case and its possible more victims could be discovered later. The sheriff said the case began only last weekend with a tip from a concerned citizen.
During an initial appearance Wednesday, Stong said little to Magistrate John Sullivan. The magistrate set bond at $50,000 cash on all the charges and ordered Stong to have no contact with any of the alleged victims. A preliminary hearing was set for Friday, July 20th. But such hearings are usually canceled when the county attorney files what's known as trial information.
People living in Oran confirmed that Stong was, at one time, manager of a local dairy and creamery. More recently, he worked on computers out of his home. Next-door neighbor Ben Bradley said "I had a couple of dealings with him. He fixed our computer once. But other than that, he was a nice guy and we never saw him much."
Bradley and his wife Jennifer have two younger children. So this kind of criminal case was particularly disturbing. Jennifer Bradley said as they watched officers haul away evidence on Tuesday their first guess was something involving child porn. "After a while, the longer it took and when we saw them carrying out all the computer equipment definitely it was our gut feeling that's what it was," Jennifer Bradley said.
Sheriff Fisher said the Iowa Department of Human Services is contacting and working with all the identified victims and their families. But the sheriff wouldn't be surprised to have more victims come forward later. "It's very disturbing to have anything like this in any community. We just hope if there are other victims out there that they would come forward and we'd get them some help," Sheriff Fisher said.
A search of Stong's criminal history shows a conviction for lascivious acts with a child in 1961 for which he was given a three-year prison term and a conviction for third degree sexual abuse in Bremer County in 1986.
Sheriff Fisher said Stong was not listed on the Iowa Sex Offender Registry. Registry rules state if a person completed or discharged their sentence before July 1, 1995 then they are not on the electronic list.