Search warrant says parents feared priest was ‘grooming’ their son

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MLive     Michigan

SAGINAW, MI — A search warrant served on two residences of a local priest reveals new details into the investigation of the clergyman.

The Rev. Robert DeLand, commonly known as Father Bob, is facing sexual assault and drug charges relating to a teen and at least one other male in Freeland.

A search warrant for the St. Agnes Church Rectory, 335, Johnson, in Freeland, and DeLand’s condominium, 29 Mallard Cove, was made public by law on April 22, which was 56 days after DeLand’s February arrest.

According to the search warrant, on Nov. 2, 2017, the teen boy’s parents came to police with concerns that there was suspicious and inappropriate behavior toward their son by DeLand.

The parents said their son was assigned to do community service under DeLand for a minor-in-possession charge he faced. According to the parents, DeLand seemed to be stalking their son, according to the warrant.

The parents felt “Father Bob is possibly grooming their son for a homosexual relationship with him,” the warrant states.

The 17-year-old Freeland High School student told detectives in Tittabawassee Township that DeLand’s behavior “freaked him out.”

With the permission of the teen’s parents, police launched a covert investigation, which included audio surveillance of each interaction with DeLand. Both parents expressed concern for their son’s safety, according to police reports.

Each interaction the teen had with DeLand ended with the priest giving him cash, according to the search warrant.

Alan Crawford, Deland’s attorney, declined to comment for this story.

Here’s a timeline of events, according to the search warrant:

Nov. 16, 2017

The teen was approached by DeLand during his 4th-hour gym class. DeLand asked the teen if he had $20. The teen told him he did not. DeLand then asked him to come to an empty room outside of the gym where he gave him $20 and asked for a hug.

Without warning, according to the warrant, DeLand started rubbing the teen’s buttocks.

The teen told investigators he was “very upset and wanted to punch Father Bob.”

Jan. 25, 2018

The teen met with DeLand and detectives heard, through audio surveillance, the priest encouraging the teen to smoke cigarettes. The teen expressed concern that his parents might smell it and DeLand told him that it could be masked with Febreze.

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Within an hour, the teen smoked several cigarettes with DeLand. While they were smoking, DeLand told the teen multiple times that he loved him.

The visit ended with DeLand giving the teen $40 and spraying him with Febreze.

Jan. 31, 2018

About a week later, DeLand picked the teen up and drove him to his condo in Saginaw Township. DeLand gave him a pack of Marlboro cigarettes. The teen smoked several cigarettes and turned the rest over to police as evidence.

DeLand also told the teen that if he wanted to run away, he could spend the night at his condo. He encouraged the teen to obtain marijuana for both of them, according to the search warrant.

He then asked the teen how he felt about two men having sex and inquired about what the teen does when he is “extremely horny,” according to the search warrant.

DeLand gave the teen $80 that he got from an ATM before dropping the teen off at home.

Police then placed a GPS tracking device on DeLand’s vehicle.

Feb. 19, 2018

DeLand picked the teen up from home and drove him to his condo. During the drive, DeLand encouraged the teen to watch gay porn and said they should “chill” together all day and smoke some marijuana and drink alcohol, according to the warrant.

DeLand gave the teen $50 and told him he loved him before dropping him off, according to the warrant.

Feb. 20, 2018

At about 5 p.m., DeLand picked the teen up and drove him to the church rectory where he encouraged him to watch gay porn and call him later to tell him how it was. DeLand gave the teen $40 before taking him home.

Feb. 21, 2018

At the church rectory, DeLand asked the teen about anal sex and offered his condo as a place he could use for sex, according to the warrant. DeLand then encouraged the teen to get drunk and skip school the following day.

Feb. 22, 2018

The following day DeLand drove around with the teen and gave him $80 before asking about the drug ecstasy. The teen told DeLand he could get some ecstasy but it would cost $100.

At some point, DeLand gave the teen an additional $80 for the ecstasy and told him to buy it and give it to him the following day, according to the warrant.

Police obtained two small blue melatonin pills, an over-the-counter sleep aid, and met with the teen. They placed the pills in a baggie with a smiley face on it and had the teen text a picture to DeLand, who replied to the text, according to the warrant.

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They met in a Freeland grocery store parking lot where police observed the teen give DeLand the pills. DeLand, in turn, gave the teen $65.

Feb. 25, 2018

DeLand was arrested on Feb. 25 at his Saginaw Township condominium on accusations that he had molested the teen and a 21-year-old male.

Inside of DeLand’s condo, police seized several bottles of alcohol. At the church rectory, police seized two laptops, a thumb drive, two passports and bank statements.

DeLand was charged with attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct and gross indecency between males.

He was rearrested on April 6 and charged with single counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct causing personal injury, assault with intent to commit second-degree criminal sexual conduct, manufacturing or distributing an imitation controlled substance, and selling or furnishing alcohol to a minor.

1 Response to Search warrant says parents feared priest was ‘grooming’ their son

  1. Sylvia says:

    Fascinating. The police investigation into that Father DeLand was triggered because parents were afraid the priest was grooming their son.

    Good for them!

    They were right.

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