Accused rapist's bond set at $150,000

Willard man, 80, accused of raping 18-year-old mentally impaired teen.
Cary Ashby
Apr 8, 2014


An elderly man accused of raping an 18-year-old mentally impaired Plymouth woman must post a $150,000 bond before being released from jail.

Howard R. Zerkle, 80, of 151 Crestwood Drive, Willard, will stand trial June 24 in Huron County Common Pleas Court. He is charged with one count each of rape, kidnapping and sexual battery. The Willard Police Department arrested the suspect late Saturday morning on a secret indictment without incident at his home.

If convicted of rape or kidnapping, Zerkle faces three to 11 years in prison on each first-degree felony. A rape conviction would mean the defendant would be classified as a Tier III sex offender and include a lifetime address requirement with community notification.

Zerkle entered "not guilty" pleas to each charge Monday. He told Judge Jim Conway he is on probation for a federal conviction, but he didn't say what the charge was.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation assisted police with the investigation. Detective Jeremy Draper has said the case involves a first-time meeting between Zerkle and his accuser, so authorities "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.

Huron County Public Defender David Longo said Monday the case has received quite a bit of publicity.

In early February, the victim's father began picketing outside the Willard police station with a sign and expressed his belief that police and prosecutors weren't taking his daughter's suspected attacker off the streets.

Zerkle reportedly got the teenager's name from another Plymouth High School student and followed her school bus to her house. When she got off, Zerkle allegedly lured her to him and said he'd take her to his house, out to eat and to play games, the father earlier told the Reflector. Her brother tried to stop the man's car after she got in, but it was too late.

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

Police were called after the victim got scared at the stranger's home and texted her mother.

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

"I think it's good that he's in custody," the victim's grandfather said recently.

If Zerkle posts bond, he's prohibited from having any association with the girl and can't be on the premises of a Plymouth address.


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



This man and others like him are a disgrace to human kind.


What a disgusting person. He gives you the creeps just looking at him. What a nasty coward to prey on a mentally impaired person. Introduce him to Bubba!! An 80 year old pervert!


He is such a nice old man....screwing people over for years. Lock him up and throw away the key!! Howard R. Zerkle described it as a "great investment opportunity" to his friend from church three years ago: In seven years, a $20,000 investment in his company would be worth $1 million.

Zerkle, a High Point businessman, gave the man a promissory note "guaranteeing" the first investment of $34,000, and the checks continued to roll in until the man had invested a total of $113,000 with Zerkle's company, Zerkles Inc., according to an FBI agent's affidavit.

But the promised payouts never came. Last month, a federal grand jury indicted the 72-year-old Zerkle, of Langdale Drive, in connection with a scheme that took in about $6. …

Facts are for me

It's amazing how vocal everyone is on here before the facts are even out on the table. You heard the dad's side of things and you assume everything he says is truth. Remember there is 3 sides to a story and it sounds like maybe even 4 sides to this one. Once this man goes to trial, the facts will be presented and the jury will make the final decision of what they feel is the truth versus fiction. No one ever considers the families feelings on a situation before throwing punches to one party or the other.