Accused rapist arrested

Suspect is 80-year-old Willard man; victim is autistic 18-year-old Plymouth woman
Cary Ashby
Apr 6, 2014


The city police department arrested a rape suspect on a secret indictment Saturday.

Howard R. Zerkle, 80, of 151 Crestwood Drive, Willard, is charged with one count each of rape, kidnapping and sexual battery. He was arrested at his home about 11:30 a.m. and then transported to the Huron County Jail.

"We arrested him at 151 Crestwood Drive. ... He was arrested without incident," Willard Police Detective Jeremy Draper said.

All three felonies are in connection with an incident involving an autistic 18-year-old Plymouth woman.

The incident was reported Jan. 31, first to the Plymouth Police Department because the victim lives there. Willard police started investigating the case soon afterward, Draper said. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation also was involved.

"She was 18 at the time of the incident. ... It did take place in Willard," Draper said. "It was the first time meeting each other, so we couldn't establish how they know each other."

The victim went to MedCentral Health System in Mansfield the night of the suspected incident.

"She was treated and released that night," Draper said.

In early February, the victim's father began picketing outside the Willard Police Department's headquarters with a sign, expressing his belief that police and prosecutors were not taking his daughter's alleged attacker off the streets.

The victim's father earlier outlined the allegations against Zerkle for the Reflector.

The suspect got the teenager's name from another Plymouth High School student and followed her school bus to her house. When she got off, Zerkle lured her to him, claiming he'd take her to his house, out to eat and to play games, the father said.

The father added his daughter, who is friendly and likes and trusts everybody, probably thought Zerkle was a friend.

The victim's brother tried to stop the man's car after she got in, but it was too late.

The daughter got scared at the stranger's home and texted her mother, the father said. Police were called.

"They found my daughter's blood in his bed," the victim's father told the Reflector, adding authorities also found two used condoms in his apartment and blood on a towel.

Draper said Zerkle didn't make any statements about the case when he was arrested Saturday.

If convicted of rape or kidnapping, Zerkle faces three to 11 years in prison on each first-degree felony. A sexual battery conviction is punishable by nine months to three years.

While the victim's father could not be reached for comment Sunday, her grandfather said the family learned of Zerkle's arrest.

"I told him I was happy about it," the grandfather said about his conversation with his son, adding it took authorities "quite a while" to arrest the suspect.

"I think it's good that he's in custody," he said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Reflector Staff Writer Aaron Krause contributed to this story.



I just pray that sick SOB is denied bale!


If found guilty he needs put down.

God Of Thunder

Jerry Sandusky's long lost twin???


For all those that made rude and unwarranted comments about the father and this victim in the first article, shame on you! I hope this sick bas**rd rots in prison the rest of his life! My heart aches for this young girl and her family.

JMOP's picture

I agree Wildbunch3.
Although he has not been convicted yet, some would say they would apologize for slandering the victims father. Apologies are no good when damage has been done.

believe it

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


What does the fathers past have to do with his special needs daughter being raped??? Do you even read what you post, some people are so ignorant!

believe it

You were the one who brought up the father about the rude comments toward him so I responded as to why I won't apologize for those comments. Yes I read what I post, I'm the one who typed it, kind've an ignorant commentv too, eh?

JMOP's picture

I don't know him, seems to me he wasn't lying about this. His credibility seems more honest than the other posters who might just eat crow.

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

So you admit to slandering the father? Typical loser you are.

believe it

Suing 8 former employers and stating facts about the things he does isn't slander. Just the truth. As for his daughther, horrible. I'm glad they got the guy and hope they find him guilty. Doesn't change my opinion on him though. I know him too well.

JMOP's picture

Some people were defaming his character by discrediting him because of some "frivolous lawsuits". Saying he was only picketing to get money, calling him a loser, and you even called him "nuts". Yes, that's slander.

believe it

Yes, he is nuts. You obviously don't know him as a person. I do.

JMOP's picture

No, I don't know him. I guess that gives you every right to kick a person down when they are already at a low point. That surly says something about a persons character.

believe it

He's kicked plenty of other people when they were at low points, don't play that game. You want to talk about character when talking about him? Seriously?


Appears Willard is full of heroin addicts, rapist, burgulars, and illegal immigrants, dont hear anything good coming from Willard.

believe it

Nothing good? New hospital, new school, Pepperidge doing a $90 million expansion while other towns are losing businesses, railroad is booming, so is MTD. It's always easy to point out the negatives. And I think it's funny Willard is the only one that gets painted with the heroin image when Norwalk and Wakeman are in the news about daily for something heroin related or some type of arrest being made.


Sounds like you've been on the farm too long. The things that you mentioned are happening every place. Get a clue.


Why did it take so long for the arrest? If according to the article they had blood evidence, and eye witness seeing the girl being enticed away, (Her Brother).This sounds like a space of time occurred between when she got in the car and the cops got called.... ("The daughter got scared at the stranger's home and texted her mother, the father said. Police were called.") Had she not got scared and text her mom would anyone have called police and say some stranger took my mentally challenged daughter? The article to is kinda confusing to me.

Dr. Information

Because in this day and age you have to have everything in order to make an arrest or you risk messing the case and evidence up which would hinder a conviction through the courts.


How true that is....People should not make comments until the arrest is made! You know how courts are now! You have to have the ducks in Order. Do not risk messing the case up!


Link to the previous article:

"Man seeks charges against stranger whom he says raped his daughter"


There are ALOT of questions about this whole situation. Does this creepy old man LIKE this type of girl? Why would he target her? To me it makes the crime even worse. He had to have been watching her to know of her "condition". Why was he staking her out? What kind of sick pervert does that? How long had he been watching her? He got her name from another student. Does he frequently hang out at the school? The bus stop? He is somehow connected to the school? People need to be more aware of what is going on near schools and bus stops. Tell their children to NEVER give out the names of other children, especially special needs children.


ladydye_5 - I share your questions and I have a few more. 1. Why is this girl not at Christie Lane if she truly is the type of special needs child that the father states? Christie Lane personnel have special training to prevent this sort of situation. 2. Did the father go to probate court and have a guardian appointed for her or is she a legal adult because he didn't do that? If she is a legal adult the prosecution of this creepy guy could become very difficult because consent then becomes an issue for the trial.
3. Street talk is that the Grand Jury which meets in secret and hears no defense material was reluctant to indict this guy. Most 80 year old men's sexual activity is in the distant past and the idea that an 80 year old man could physically overcome an 18 year old girl seems problematic at best.
All the information we have at this point is the hearsay of the father who was not present when these events occurred. I hope that BCI helped to put together a better case than this one appears to be at this point.

JMOP's picture

Public schools offer special needs aids. It's up to the parents where to send their kids.
As far as preventing this, this could happen at any school bus stop. It could/does happen to girls regardless of a handicap or not. I read in the paper a couple of days ago about a 13 year old waiting for the bus in the morning who got raped behind a vacant house.

Age of an 80 year old mans sex drive? Heard of Hugh Hefner? Viagra? The cops found two used condoms in the mans bedroom, so obviously we know he can "get it up".

When the child becomes an adult, but has the rationality of a six year old, as the dad stated, then the caregivers are her wards. She isn't of sound mind to make the consent.


Public schools provide some limited services for the disabled. As far as I know no Huron County schools provide services for adults over 18 who have a mental age of 6 except Christie Lane. She is not the ward of her caregivers unless they have gone to Probate Court and been declared her guardians. If you disbelieve this call the Probate Court and ask. All over 18 are competent unless the Probate Court has ruled otherwise. We don't know yet what the police found all we know is what the father said they found. My point is and was that we don't know the answers to these questions at this point.

JMOP's picture

Schools do provide an aid. There are aids for K-12 for Downs, Autistic, and physically handicapped. I know three seniors alone in my kids school that have their own special needs assigned to them.

If her mental capacity is of a six year old, than it's treated as if he raped a six year old in an adults body.

I don't disbelieve you, about being wards, but how do you know they haven't done that already?

No, the probate will see her medical evolutions and declare it was rape, not consent.
Police did a DNA, and charged him. They did find something.


If I had a child that was 18 with the mind of a 6 year old there is no way in HELL that she would get off of a bus unattended at any time. Mr. Creepy would not have had the opportunity to get near her.
Maybe it is the fact of being a cops wife, I notice strange things at strange times in strange places. Especially around the kids at school time. Even if it is not my child, it is someones child.

Yall Make Me Sick

This story is about a father trying to get justice for his daughter. There's nothing wrong with that. Who cares what he's so called done according to you. He's not the one in jail or could be trial. The fact that he is trying to protect his child & do what parents do for their kids, when heartbreaking things like this happen. When the father goes on trial then you can blow your mouth about that, don't do it on as story that has nothing to do with what your jabbering about.


this old man is lucky that it wasnt one of my children. there would be no trial for him.