GREENFIELD — Prosecutors dismissed child molest cases against two men shortly after filing charges, telling a judge they learned one defendant was in prison during the alleged assault, and the mix-up cast too much doubt for them to proceed with the second case.
Charges were dismissed this week against Anthony James Strode Sr., 40, of Indianapolis, and he was released from the Hancock County Jail Wednesday after spending four days in the facility for a crime he could not have committed, prosecutors said.
Court records show Strode was serving a 10-year sentence in an Indiana Department of Correction facility for burglary between 2003 and 2012; the victim said she was assaulted between 2006 and 2009.
That discrepancy led prosecutors to reconsider the charges they had previously filed against a second man, Timothy Bishop, 48, of Plainfield, who was accused by the same girl. Friday, they dismissed the charges against Bishop — who has been in jail on $50,000 cash bond since Oct. 20 — as well, saying the confusion opened the door for a jury to find reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt.
The girl told Fortville Police detectives Bishop helped care for her between 2006 and 2009. During those years, Bishop touched her inappropriately, she told investigators; and she said he allowed another man — whom the victim originally identified as Strode — to visit with her, too, and said that man molested her as well, according to court documents.
Fortville Police Chief Bill Knauer said his investigators acted on information provided by the Indiana Department of Child Service, the girl and her mother.
Investigators tried to interview Strode but could not reach him; had they been able to speak to him and learn of his prison record, the case would not have been filed, Knauer said.
The police department gave a report to the prosecutor’s office supporting charges against Strode and Bishop after hearing the victim repeat the allegations at least twice, according to court documents. Prosecutors filed one Class A felony charge and one Class C felony charge of child molesting against Bishop in October and Strode in late November, records show.
Strode was arrested Dec. 1 and made his first court appearance Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, however, Strode and his court-appointed attorney, Jon Keyes of Greenfield, contacted prosecutors to tell them a mistake had been made, Keyes told the Daily Reporter.
Prosecutors contacted the Fortville detectives who investigated the case. Together, they confirmed the information Strode provided, Keyes said.
Prosecutor Brent Eaton said there is no suggestion the detectives mishandled the case; it would be impractical to run every suspect’s name through prison records in all 50 states — not to mention county jails or other holding facilities — to verify they were not in custody during the time of an alleged crime, he added.
Knauer said he respected prosecutors’ decision to dismiss both cases. He does not plan to move forward with an investigation unless additional evidence comes to light.
“As far as I’m concerned, this investigation is closed,” Knauer said. “We don’t want to prosecute the wrong person.”
A motion to dismiss Strode’s case was given to the judge Wednesday morning, and Strode was released from jail later that day, records show. A similar motion was filed in Bishop’s case Friday morning, and Bishop was released from jail Friday afternoon.
Keyes said he is glad the matter was resolved so promptly.
“In our criminal justice system, wrongs are rarely corrected that quickly,” he said.
Attorney Greg Brand of Greenfield, who represents Timothy Bishop, did not return calls for comment.