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Published: Friday, 12/28/2001

Trains called enticement in alleged abuse

CLINTON, Mich. - Henry Starring used his knowledge about trains to meet the young boys he is accused of sexually assaulting, Clinton police said.

Mr. Starring, 24, is in the Lenawee County jail on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person under 13, assault with intent to commit sexual penetration, and committing or procuring gross indecency between males. The charges involve two young boys, said Clinton Police Sgt. Terry Keith. But as many as six local boys, ages 11 to 14, could be involved, he said.

“I've got a feeling. It's got all the makings of the tip of the iceberg,” Sergeant Keith said. “If not, then we nipped it before it got way out of hand.”

Mr. Starring, originally of Fennville, Mich., moved into the small village of Clinton in northern Lenawee County about a year ago, police said.

There he became involved with the Southern Michigan Railroad Society as well as a model train club near Ann Arbor and the Adrian and Blissfield Railroad in southern Lenawee County.

It was through these groups that Mr. Starring, a truck driver, met young boys, Sergeant Keith said.

“He was either a member or worked at all three at different times or simultaneously,” he added. “He's very knowledgeable of [trains] himself, which is why he was able to get involved and become accepted.”

Cynthia Given is president of the Clinton-based Southern Michigan Railroad Society. She said that Mr. Starring had become a member of the nonprofit organization and often volunteered his help on the operating railroad museum the society offers between Clinton and Tecumseh.

Ms. Given said the group was in the process of terminating Mr. Starring's membership because of rule violations before learning of his recent arrest. But although Mr. Starring had violated some of the museum's operating rules, Ms. Given said she was shocked that her group was used for allegedly more deviant purposes.

“From what I understand, he used the model railroad clubs as more of a way of attracting the kids,” said Ms. Given, who added that Mr. Starring showed no unusual behavior during his time with the club.

Ms. Given said community members and parents are not blaming the rail club for the charges against Mr. Starring. She said that membership is open to everyone for a fee and that several of the club's members volunteer their time and help.

“We've notified all the parents that he's not a member anymore,” she said.

Dearborn police arrested Mr. Starring Dec. 21 and turned him over to Clinton police. Mr. Starring worked as an out-of-state truck driver during the week. His terminal is in Dearborn.

He was arraigned in Lenawee County Circuit Court on Wednesday and remains in the jail on $125,000 bond.

Sergeant Keith said the investigation began when one young man told his parents about being sexually assaulted. Investigators were able to gather more names of potential victims and said they believe other assaults took place in Monroe County and Washtenaw County.

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