The Barton County Sheriff’s Office found evidence for criminal charges against a suspect in the alleged sexual assault that happened Feb. 3 on a Great Bend USD 428 school bus that was heading back to Great Bend from a swim meet in Salina.
According to the Barton County Sheriff’s Office, they have concluded the initial investigation.
“It is our belief the investigation supports evidence that the following crimes occurred. These crimes include aggravated criminal sodomy, Battery and criminal restraint,” Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir said.
Bellendir also mentioned that the criminal sodomy charge is normally a felony, but that might not be the case is juvenile court. This determination is under the jurisdiction of Barton County Attorney Doug Matthews.
The sheriff’s office has identified a 15-year-old victim, and a 17-year-old suspect. Both are students at Great Bend High School.
“Because both the suspect and the victim are juveniles, their names will not be released,” Bellendir said.
The case was given to the Barton County attorney’s office late Monday.
Although the sheriff’s office believes evidence supports the above crimes, the final charging decision is up to the Barton County attorney, Bellendir said. The county attorney may request further investigation from the sheriff’s office.
“Any questions regarding the status or disposition of the case will need to be directed to the county attorney at a later date,” Bellendir said. “It will take the county attorney some time to review all the documents involved.”
Through various methods of investigation and numerous interviews, the sheriff’s office determined the crimes occurred between 8:30 p.m. and 8:50 p.m. on Feb. 3 on NE 30 Road in Barton County.
The case was initially reported to the sheriff’s office on Feb. 6. It was initially believed at that time that the incident occurred in Saline County.
The case was consequently sent to the Saline County sheriff’s office, who referred it back to Barton County after discovery of new evidence.
“Our office asked the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to handle a case. The KBI declined citing excessive case load and the Hesston shootings,” Bellendir said.
The case was originally sent to KBI due to jurisdiction issues.
According to the Barton County sheriff’s office the reason why it took so long to complete the investigation was due to how many people had to be interviewed. Also during the investigation USD 428 went on spring break. People that needed to be interviewed where not able to be reached.
“We had witnesses scattered around which gave us trouble locating them and how many people we had to interview is why it took so long,” Bellendir said.
This incident is separate from the Feb. 6 incident being handled by Ellsworth County authorities.
“These cases are independent of each other,” Bellendir said. “We have found no evidence linking the two together.”
Ellsworth County Sheriff Tracy Ploutz said earlier this month that his investigation turned up no evidence of sexual assault.
However, he did find evidence of four victims of battery and two victims of criminal restraint.
There were three suspects in the battery cases and five in the restraint cases, with some of the suspects allegedly involved in both.
Ploutz turned the case over to Ellsworth County Attorney Joe Shepack. As of Tuesday afternoon, no charges had been filed.