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KBI declines to take sex assualt case
No sexual assault charges to be pursued in Ellsworth County
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 The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has declined to accept a case of the Feb. 3 alleged sexual assault involving a Great Bend High School boys swim team member, a KBI spokesman said Thursday. 

On Feb. 26, authorities announced the alleged sexual assault on a GBHS school bus originally believed to have occurred in Saline County on Feb. 3 may have taken place at least partly in Barton County. Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir said since there could be multi-jurisdictional issues, he had contacted the KBI and requested that agency handle the matter. 

However, KBI Public Information Officer Mark Malick said the agency will not be getting involved. “We have to prioritize cases.”

Malick said the KBI is heavily involved in the Hesston mass shooting investigation and dozens of other investigations. “We just didn’t have the resources.”

Meanwhile in Ellsworth County, Sheriff Tracy Ploutz said he found no evidence of sexual assault in connection with the GBHS swim team as its bus passed through Ellsworth Feb. 6 returning from a meet in Manhattan. “Through the interviews and from reading the state statutes, the elements weren’t there for a conviction.”

However, he did find evidence of four victims of battery and two victims of criminal restraint. There were three suspects in the battery cases five in the restraint cases, with some of the suspects alleged to have been involved in both. 

All the boys are between 14-17 years old.

He recommended these charges to Ellsworth County Attorney Joe Shepack late Wednesday afternoon. “It was completed to the point I could submit the paperwork,” Ploutz said.

Now it is in Shepack’s hands, Ploutz said, adding there is no time line at this point. Also, Shepack may amend the charges.

It was the Ellsworth County incident that angered swim team parents, GBHS students and many in the community. It sparked a news conference followed by a student protest, both at the Unified School District 428 office.

In the Feb. 3 incident, Capt. Roger Soldan, of the Saline County Sheriff’s Office, said interviews by SCSO investigators led to the conclusion that the alleged assault may not have taken place in Saline County. The then contacted Bellendir who received formal notification on Monday, Feb. 29.

Soldan said earlier the father of the boy came into the SCSO office in Salina Saturday, Feb. 20. He reported that his son was assaulted on that Wednesday just as the bus had finished a swim meet at Salina South High School stopped to eat and was leaving town. Officers then visited Great Bend to conduct interviews.