Former Phillipsburg police officer Justin Sanderson forced women to engage in sexual activity with him at an area hotel and at the village police department while he was dressed in his police uniform, Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. said while announcing a 21-count grand jury indictment.
Sanderson, 32, is expected to appear at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the courtroom of Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Steven Dankof. He faces an array of felony charges, including three counts of rape by force or threat of force, two counts of kidnapping for sexual activity, one count of aggravated burglary and seven counts of sexual battery.
Sanderson turned himself in Monday to the Montgomery County Jail. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
The volume of charges “shocked” Phillipsburg Councilman Charles Marquis. Speaking from his front porch in the one-square-mile community, Marquis is one of the few village officials to go on the record to talk about Sanderson, who resigned from the Phillipsburg department in July.
“I can’t believe the number of charges,” Marquis said. “It’s unbelievable to me.”
‘Disturbing and nauseating’
Heck said the allegations against Sanderson are “chilling” and “quite frankly disturbing and nauseating.” The prosecutor applauded the Vandalia police department’s casework and the “bravery” of Sanderson’s accusers.
On July 3, two women reported to Vandalia police that, on June 28, they met a male at Knights Inn in Vandalia through an online sex advertisement.
Because of news coverage, prosecutors said, two additional women then reported alleged crimes to Vandalia police.
A woman said Sanderson stopped her May 20 for a suspected OVI, took her to the Phillipsburg police station, forced her to have sex with him, then followed her home, according to Heck. Charges were never filed stemming from the suspected OVI.
Another woman, sought on an outstanding warrant, was taken to the police station June 3, forced to perform sex acts on Sanderson, then released without charges, Heck said.
“Who knows how many other women may have been victimized before this defendant was caught?” Heck said.
Heck also asked people with information about potential other incidents involving Sanderson to come forward to the Vandalia police.
“If there is anyone out there, any other potential victims who are out there who had any kind of contact with this defendant and have been taken advantage of, then we need to hear from them immediately,” Heck said.
Sanderson’s court records did not include a criminal attorney, and this news organization has been unable to obtain comment from Sanderson previously.
‘We will get to the bottom of it’
Jason Treherne, the Phillipsburg village attorney, said a committee is being formed “to gather additional information and recommend modifications to the hiring procedures.” He declined further comment.
“It’s too bad we didn’t act a little faster, I guess,” Councilman Marquis said, noting council’s review will explore “changing hiring practices for anyone who works in the village, not just the police.”
“They did background checks, but we need to look at other sources other than background checks,” he said. “We will get to the bottom of it.”
The Dayton Daily News and News Center 7 reviewed more than 300 pages of records related to Sanderson and his past jobs. None of the incidents uncovered by the news organizations was disclosed or accurately depicted on Sanderson’s application to the Phillipsburg Police Department. The examination found:
• While working at the Juvenile Detention Center, Sanderson received a three-day suspension in September 2009 for using the court administrator’s Internet account on two days, according to a notice of suspension, which states, “All documentation … shows you are the one responsible for accessing pornographic websites on those dates whether you admit it or not.”
• Dayton Police Academy supervisors said Sanderson showed “a pattern of doing the bare minimum and a disregard of established rules,” according to personnel records. He was investigated at the academy for asking a female recruit and another male recruit if they were “making love” during a training exercise. He was given an employee counseling form instructing him to not make similar comments again. Sanderson apologized.
• After running late to academy class twice in violation of the academy’s attendance policy, Sanderson was discharged as a police recruit, according to the records. Still, he passed the basic state standards to certify him as a police officer. He received a certificate certifying his completion of the Ohio Peace Officer Basic Training Program on Nov. 6, 2014.
• One month later, while working as a police officer at Grandview Medical Center, an internal hospital investigation found “substantial reliable evidence … Sanderson showed or asked to show inappropriate photographs to three female employees of his erected penis next to an aerosol can.” He denied the accusations and resigned.
• A December 2014 internal Grandview police memo details how a Dayton prostitute working as a confidential informant for the Montgomery County sheriff identified Sanderson with “100 percent confidence” as the police officer who called her into his car and flashed his badge and gun, and let her go. Sanderson told Grandview’s chief that the incident wasn’t a solicitation for sex, but part of his attempt to start a nonprofit to help drug users and prostitutes get off the street, according to the memos.
After leaving Grandview and before joining the Phillipsburg department in October 2015, Sanderson went to work for G4S, a security firm. The local manager of G4S, Mark Wysong, also serves as the Phillipsburg chief of police.
No one at the village called a Kettering Health Network reference listed on Sanderson’s application, attorneys for Kettering Health Network and Phillipsburg previously told this newspaper.
Attempts to contact Wysong at the police station and his personal residence were unsuccessful.
“It’s always easy to Monday morning quarterback what happened,” Heck said, “but it’s a small community and certainly persons out there did not suspect anything was going on at the time.”
News Center 7 reporters Kate Bartley, Sean Cudahy and Caroline Reinwald contributed reporting.