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Protesters call on Webster County officials to resign over child sex case verdict

Child Advocacy Against Pedophilia wants to call attention to child sex crimes; offers help to victims
Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 9:54 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Fallout from a child molestation verdict in Webster County continues as two Amish men avoid jail time for sexually assaulting a 13 year-old resulting in her pregnancy.

“Our indifference is just as evil as what they are doing,” said protester Michelle Oehlschlager.

Petie and Aaron Schwartz pleaded guilty to third degree child molestation charges. In turn they were sentenced to five years probation.

That sentence that outraged many in the community who are now calling on prosecutor Ben Berkstresser and Judge Michael Hendrickson to resign.

The movement started online.

That anger and emotion spilling off social media and landed at the prosecutors office in Marshfield. The group, although small, came to protest Monday saying they’re looking for answers and justice for the little girl.

“First and foremost our mission is to make sure these victims have a safe place to go, they feel that they will be safe enough to talk about it,” said protest organizer, Tiffany Hill.

Child Advocacy Against Pedophilia was organized to help give a voice to victims of abuse. Organizers say they also want to reach authorities and elected officials.

Oehlschlager said, “It is up to you to uphold our laws. I believe you had admitted guilt by the brothers. I understand the community that you’re working with is very illusive and very secretive but we put you in there, we want justice.”

Last week, Berkstresser filed a motion to revoke probation asking a judge to send the men to jail.

“It is a tiny step in the right direction but we’re looking for the leap, the jump,” said protest organizer Mel Pleasant.

Hill said, Someone asked actually, well if the probation is revoked and they’re going to jail anyway, didn’t you get what you wanted? No, that is not the case. It should have been the very first thing that happened. Those two men should have been locked up. The two juveniles should have had charges brought against them. There just should have been a lot more done in the beginning.

The protesters say more work needs to be done to protect children from sexual abuse.

Protester Caleb Hill said, “We need a board, a committee or task force anything. We need to put something together to stop this.”

“We have to be, as a society, not a community, a society, we have to be aware of what’s going on. We have to figure out a way to stop it,” said protest organizer Letha Pilcher-Lee.

Prosecutor Ben Berkstresser declined our request for an interview but said in a statement that he is “glad they can exercise their right to protest peacefully.”

A hearing to revoke the men’s probation and possibly send them to prison is scheduled for Wednesday.

The group plans to protest at the hearing and this coming Saturday.

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