Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Buffalo teacher arrested for porn, indecent exposure www.privateofficer.com

NEW BUFFALO MI March 4 2010
Source:A-P news- A New Buffalo man arrested last week on a child pornography charge is a worship leader at a church in Sawyer and has a long history of teaching music to children, including at two elementary schools in Benton Harbor.

Dennis Hoag, 59, was arrested Friday on charges of possession of child sexually abusive material and aggravated indecent exposure, according to a news release Tuesday from the New Buffalo Police Department.

The release said Hoag's arrest resulted from an investigation into an incident last May with a minor. It asked that anyone with information about that incident or any related incident call New Buffalo police at 469-1593.

A woman answering the police department phone Tuesday said Chief Larry Pitchford was not available and that no other details would be released. Berrien County Prosecutor Arthur Cotter said Hoag will be arraigned on the charges next Monday. Cotter said the child pornography charge is a four-year felony and the aggravated indecent exposure charge is a two-year high misdemeanor.

According to Cotter, Hoag is alleged to have exposed himself to a 12-year-old boy who was doing yard work at Hoag's house in New Buffalo. Hoag allegedly fondled himself during the indecent exposure, making the charge aggravated indecent exposure, Cotter said. The prosecutor said the boy is not related to Hoag.

Church and school leaders say the alleged incident had nothing to do with school or church functions.

Carole Schmidt, superintendent of Benton Harbor Area Schools, said Hoag taught elementary vocal music at Calvin Britain and McCord schools. A woman answering the phone at Riverside School near Coloma said Hoag worked at that school several years ago.

Jack Whitehead, pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Sawyer, said Hoag was a worship leader there. He said Hoag is not an official member of the church but attended regularly and led the singing. Whitehead said Hoag was a worship leader at the church since about 2002 but Whitehead, who became pastor last January, had known him only about a year.

Whitehead said he had been out of town and learned of Hoag's arrest over the weekend.

"I was surprised. Anyone that knew him would be surprised. He's a decent, good guy. He was a very dedicated person in the church," Whitehead said. "He helped out with music and day camp and was well liked by the kids."

Whitehead said Hoag has grown children and that the alleged incident that led to his arrest did not involve a family member. But, he said, "This was a private thing, totally outside of the church. It was at a house. It had nothing to do with the church whatsoever."

Schmidt had little to say about the arrest of Hoag, other than that he had not been at work since his arrest and that the incident related to his arrest has nothing to do with Benton Harbor schools.

"This had nothing to do with our schools, and there is no report of anything relative to our schools, or anything involving a Benton Harbor child that I'm aware of," Schmidt said. "Our intention now is that this become a personnel issue."

Schmidt said she was notified late Monday of Hoag's arrest.

"These are just allegations. We're leaving the investigation to the professionals, and they'll advise us."

Schmidt said she did not know Hoag very well and has no opinion of him as a teacher.

Mark Westerburg, superintendent of New Buffalo Public Schools, said Hoag's wife is a middle school teacher there but that Hoag never worked for New Buffalo schools.

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