Two Norwalk rape suspects have entered "not guilty" pleas to a host of sex-related felonies.
Former Jefferson Street residents Justin D. Collins, 20, and Jason P. Wooten, 36, were in Huron County Common Pleas Court for their respective arraignments Monday. A Huron County grand jury indicted both suspects Friday.
Collins is charged with three counts of rape in connection with incidents in late March and mid-April of this year and between December 2011 and March 2012. He also faces one charge of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor stemming from a mid-June offense.
Judge Jim Conway said one of the rape charges "has a force specification with it," which means Collins could face 25 years to life in prison if he's found guilty of the allegation.
Collins told the judge he doesn't have any prior felony convictions and isn't on probation. The defendant, who is being represented by Huron County Public Defender David Longo, has a trial date of Oct. 15.
Wooten is charged with one count of gross sexual imposition and four charges each of sexual battery and rape in connection with incidents in December, January and on July 23.
"My understanding is you have a prior sex offense as a felony," Conway told Wooten.
"Yes sir," the defendant said.
Starting in the late 1990s, Wooten served three years in prison for felonious sexual battery. The conviction is through Cuyahoga County.
Wooten's local trial date is scheduled for Oct. 22. The court appointed Tim Dempsey to represent him.
The victims are girls who were 13, 10, 8 and 6 at the time.
An 11-year-old boy has been charged through Huron County Juvenile Court in connection with the case. The boy recently entered denials to three counts of rape, one charge of attempted rape and two counts of gross sexual imposition. He is on electronically-monitored house arrest and must undergo a psychiatric evaluation, according to court officials.
Collins was arrested in July after Wooten brought two daughters of his live-in girlfriend to the Huron County Sheriff's Office to report ongoing sex abuse reportedly committed by Collins and the boy.
Investigators later learned Wooten also had been sexually abusing the girls for years. He was taken into custody a few days after Collins was arrested.
"Mr. Wooten admitted to having sexual intercourse with both the (older) girls primarily at the Bellevue address and molesting the girls at the Norwalk address," Deputy Rich Larson said earlier.
Sheriff Dane Howard has called this one of the most disturbing cases of his law-enforcement career.
"One of the most sickening things is (Wooten) brought two of the girls to this office ... in an apparent parental role," he told the Reflector earlier. "All the while, he'd been hurting the children himself. I can't imagine what these children have gone through the last several years."
Chris Mushett, juvenile court administrator, has said the two older girls told their mother they were being sexually abused by her live-in boyfriend, Wooten. The suspected incidents happened over a four-year period in Norwalk, Bellevue and possibly Lakewood.
"Despite the mother's knowledge, she took no action to protect her children," Mushett told the Reflector earlier.
The court has found the five children to be the suspected victims of abuse, neglect and dependence. The 13- and 10-year-old girls are in the custody of their father. Wooten's two children and a 5-year-old girl were placed in the custody of an aunt.
If convicted of some of the rape charges, Wooten and Collins face life in prison without parole and must register their address for their entire lives.
The defendants are being held in lieu of posting a $125,000 bond each. If they make bail, they are prohibited from having any association or communication with any non-family members under the age of 18.