By all appearances, Kenneth Brandt, Jason Zwick and Patrick Rieder blended well into their communities.
None of the three had significant criminal records when they were charged with child rape last month. Brandt was known in Miami County as a foster parent advocate. Zwick is a member of a well-connected Beavercreek family.
“They did us a favor by communicating with the undercover officer,” said Troy Police Capt. Chris Anderson. “If it weren’t for that, we may never have caught these three.” They have all been charged with felonies following an undercover Internet investigation.
Although not yet indicted, they could face mandatory life sentences. Attorneys for all three declined comment.
The Dayton Daily News reviewed police and court records and talked to people across four counties to piece together the backgrounds of the three men accused of raping Brandt’s three adopted sons. It remains unclear how long the men knew each other or how they met.
According to authorities, Brandt allegedly raped three of the four children in his home. He also allowed Zwick and Rieder to rape one of the boys, according to authorities.
The three victims, all boys, are now ages 9, 10 and 12. Anderson said that, under Ohio law, raping someone under the age of 10 brings a mandatory life sentence.
The allegations have brought wide media attention, and many people who knew the men have contacted police.
Anderson summed up their descriptions of the suspects as “average everyday Joe.”
Father was in process of adopting 4th child
Brandt, 39, lives in a modest brick house in a residential neighborhood in Troy. In recent years, he adopted three of the four children in his home, and was in the process of adopting the fourth at the time of his arrest.
Wright State University confirmed that a Kenneth H. Brandt attended and graduated from WSU. A spokesman said a person by that name attended the university between summer 1993 and spring 1996, acquiring 119 credit hours and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Business.
Brandt, who is unmarried, owned Brandt Insurance Services. He did not have a license to sell insurance, but told others he was a claims adjuster, Anderson said.
He was also, for a time, president of Miami County Foster Parents Inc., a nonprofit organization that raises money to purchase toys for foster children.
“I did not like the man,” said Jerilyn Kohl, who was treasurer of the now-defunct group. “It was just instinct. Sometimes your first impressions are your best impressions.”
Kohl said that Brandt became president because no one else wanted to do it. She described him as “a very self-satisfied person” who was controlling and did not work well with others. But she also said, while some disliked him, no one suspected he would be charged with molesting children.
Brandt was initially certified as a foster parent in February 2005 in Miami County, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. That certification transferred to Montgomery County in May 2008. In October 2009, he had a foster care certification approved through Adopting Children Today Information Option Network (ACTION), the non-profit group that helped him adopt his three children.
Miami County officials confirmed last week that four foster children were placed in Brandt’s home between November 2006 and August 2007. One was a 15-year-old boy who later was moved to a group home.
Montgomery County officials said they placed two children in Brandt’s care for a week when he was a foster parent there from May 2008 to October 2009.
“That placement didn’t work,” said Ann Stevens, spokeswoman for Montgomery County Job and Family Services, who declined to elaborate on why the children were moved.
Kohl, who lives in West Milton, said one of Brandt’s foster children later lived with her, but she declined to comment further on that situation. She said that authorities had not contacted her.
The Miami County foster parent group ceased to exist in 2009, after it failed to file paperwork with the Ohio Secretary of State. Kohl said the group closed down because people lost interest, not because of Brandt.
Brandt was also on the board of the Troy Junior Basketball Association. A 2010 handout posted online lists Brandt as a board member who served as seventh- to ninth-grade representative.
Jeff Price, president of the association, declined to comment on Brandt’s role in the program and did not return phone calls this week.
Zwick from well known Beavercreek family
Zwick, 29, appears to have come from an upper-middle class family with strong ties to the community, local politicians and office-holders. His father owns a financial services business and his mother is an award-winning elementary schoolteacher, both working in Beavercreek. He has one sister.
Other than some eviction notices and traffic citations, Zwick’s only other prior legal trouble came when he was a senior at Beavercreek High School, where he graduated in 2001. He was indicted on charges of manufacturing altered driver’s licenses. At the time, a Beavercreek police detective said Zwick altered three high school students’ ages to at least 18 and that he made a driver’s license for himself showing that he was 21.
Zwick used his home computer to alter the licenses, then printed them at a local insurance agency where he was employed after school, the detective said at the time.
Clerk of Courts Terri Mazur said that there is no criminal action listed in Greene County Common Pleas Court, possibly because any conviction could have been sealed or expunged.
According to an online resume, a Jason Zwick worked at four different hotels in the Fairborn, Columbus and Cleveland areas between 2004 and 2011, including the Wingate by Wyndham in Fairborn from October 2010 to September 2011. The profile said he was “currently seeking a new opportunity in the hospitality industry” and that his specialty was new hotel construction and pre-opening.
Zwick’s name was attached to online comments as the Wyndham’s general manager, in which he defended the hotel against a bad review.
Wright State University confirmed that a Jason M. Zwick attended the college periodically between winter 2005 and fall 2010, accumulating 33 credit hours. Zwick’s Beavercreek condominium is part of an upscale neighborhood west of The Mall at Fairfield Commons.
According to meeting minutes from Beavercreek’s Rotary Club, Zwick volunteered for projects such as the Popcorn Festival. Beavercreek Schools Superintendent Nick Verhoff said Zwick never volunteered in the school district.
A Facebook page with his name was taken down shortly after his arrest. That page showed he “liked” the Ohio Young Republicans and motorsports and listed many Greene County officials as “friends.”
Multiple friends and acquaintances of Zwick’s parents, Michael and Anita, did not want to comment for this story, but conveyed that the family is community-minded and involved in the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce.
Rieder not cooperating with detectives
Rieder, 31, is a 1999 graduate of Lakota East High School. He lives in an older apartment building just east of Brown Street and one block south of the Oregon District’s main drag.
Rieder’s one prior scrape with the law was in 2002, when he was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia. Rieder paid a $100 fine, according to records filed in Butler County Area Court 3.
Rieder was employed at the Dayton Grand Hotel, formerly the Doubletree Hotel, in downtown Dayton.
It’s unclear exactly how long the three men have known each other, though Brandt told detectives that they met online, according to Dayton Sgt. Larry Tolpin.
Rieder has not cooperated with detectives, Tolpin said.
2 say adoptive father OK’d sex with his son
Both Tolpin and Anderson said that they did not know of any other adults involved. They said they are awaiting the forensic examinations of the defendants’ computers to determine if there are other victims.
A search warrant affidavit shows that the undercover detective had contact with Zwick and Rieder before he communicated with Brandt. Both Zwick and Rieder said Brandt had allowed them to have sex with his son, according to the affidavit.
Brandt was arrested Feb. 24, after a representative from the Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force contacted Troy police and said that an undercover detective had been communicating online with Brandt, who was making arrangements to allow the detective to have sex with a 10-year-old boy.
Rieder was arrested Feb. 27 and Zwick was arrested Feb. 28.
Before the undercover bust, none of the three, who remain in custody, had crossed police radar for sex crimes against children.
Staff writer Denise Callahan contributed to this story.
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