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Published: Wednesday, 12/6/2000

Officer in porn case leads local youth unit

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TIFFIN - A Seneca County corrections officer arrested Friday for pandering child pornography is the troop leader of a local youth group and the organizer of monthly overnight campouts at the Tiffin Rangers' camp, according to documents filed in Seneca County Common Pleas Court.

One young boy, a member of the group who spent the night at Dale Matthews's home on Sept. 9, told a law enforcement investigator that Mr. Matthews took photographs of his bare buttocks, according to court documents.

The 8-year-old boy told investigators the incident occurred while he was in bed during an overnight stay at 183 Charlotte St., where Mr. Matthews lived at the time.

Court documents said he now lives at Camp Hertzer, 3543 North County Road 33, which is the Rangers' property.

Officers from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation are continuing their investigation of Mr. Matthews, according to Jennifer Detwiler, a spokeswoman for the agency.

The 37-year-old Tiffin man was arrested Friday after officers seized more than 50 items from his home, including 13 black and white photographs depicting boys nude and in various stages of undress, computer equipment, and pornographic videotapes.

He is charged with pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor, a second degree felony punishable by a $15,000 fine and/or two to eight years in prison.

He was arraigned Monday in Tiffin Municipal Court and was released on his own recognizance. Sheriff H. Weldin Neff said Mr. Matthews was suspended with pay while the charges are pending.

The investigation of Mr. Matthews began last year when a fellow troop leader said he saw a “boy love” web site on the officer's home computer, according to the search warrant executed Friday.

The web site is an Internet bulletin board that “promotes communication between men who have an interest in boys,” the court document said.

But it wasn't until the young boy's mother came forward this September, saying her child may have been inappropriately photographed that investigators had evidence to search Mr. Matthews' home, law enforcement authorities said.

The 30-year-old Tiffin woman, who had three young children involved in the Tiffin Rangers, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Rangers is a nonprofit group that offers development opportunities for children around the ages eight through 13, said William Hertzer, a member of the group's 16-member board of directors.

Mr. Hertzer declined to comment on the case against Mr. Matthews but said the group has been a local outlet for youth since the 1930s.

“We have a 40-acre camp and a lot of what we do is based on camp experience,” he said yesterday. He said less than 50 children are involved in the group.

An affidavit filed in Tiffin Municipal Court said Mr. Matthews admitted to investigators that he downloaded graphic images from the computer and that he possessed magazines, brochures, and video tapes that “depict minors participating or engaging in sexual activity.”

Mr. Matthews's attorney Dean Henry said Monday that his client has been charged with possessing images and not with any violation involving local children. Mr. Henry could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Matthews has been a correction officer in Seneca County since 1994. According to his personnel file, he was promoted to a patrol officer in March, 1995.

However, he was demoted back to a correction officer by former Sheriff Larry Stephens after being found negligent in two traffic accidents.

He also was cited on two different occasions for insubordination and had verbal warnings about tardiness and unsatisfactory work.



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