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Convicted sex offender arrested on similar charge

Cary Ashby • Updated Jun 27, 2018 at 10:19 AM

A former Norwalk man who went to prison for molesting a 13-year-old girl is accused of committing another, similar offense.

Joseph J. Claus, 44, most recently of 2254 W. Townline Road 131, Willard, is charged with gross sexual imposition, a third-degree felony punishable by nine months to three years in prison. According to Norwalk Municipal Court, he is accused of committing an April 10, 2015 offense which was investigated by Norwalk Police Detective Dave Daniels.

Claus has been in jail since Saturday. Court records indicate if he posts a $75,000 bond, he is prohibited from having any direct or indirect association or communication with anyone younger than 18.

Interim Chief Mike Conney said this is a different crime than the one for which Claus went to prison. Conney referred further questions to Dave Daniels.

“There was an allegation made by a family member. It was alleged it happened prior to the (previous) incident he was charged with,” said Daniels, who interviewed the complainant, the victim’s mother and Huron County Children Services assisted with interviewing the victim.

Daniels, who interviewed Claus twice, said the female victim is a “related family member” and was 12 years old at the time of the suspected sex offense.

In early February 2016, Claus was sentenced to 17 months in prison for gross sexual imposition. The conviction was for an Oct. 10, 2015 incident at his apartment when the 13-year-old victim was spending the night with her best friend.

The victim’s mother told the Reflector this week that the new allegation is in connection with “yet another child-oriented sex offense.”

“He was released (from prison) around March of 2017. This new charge stems from an offense committed just a little before he touched my child,” she added.

On Monday, a tipster called the newsroom to say she called the mother of the latest possible-victim and the mother said the incident involved a child different from the one from Claus’ previous conviction.

Now that Claus is out of prison, he is on mandatory parole for five years. He also must register his address with the sheriff’s office for 15 years. As a Tier I sex offender, Claus can’t live within 1,000 feet of a school, preschool or daycare center.

The victim’s mother in the first case shared some details the day of Claus’ sentencing hearing.

On Oct. 10, 2015, she allowed her daughter to spend a day at the zoo, go to dinner and spend the night with her best friend.

“Little did she know I was sending her off with a predator,” the mother said in court. 

The first inappropriate touch by Claus happened in the main living area of his apartment. The mother has said her daughter thought it could have been an accident because he was petting a dog.

“There was something in her gut that told her otherwise,” she said.

Prosecutors have said Claus fondled the victim over top of her clothes, an incident which “was intentional touching, not accidental.” Huron County Public Defender David Longo said in court his client was supposed to be protecting the girl and essentially “was acting as a parent.”

The mother, in 2016, also said there was documentation of Claus reportedly victimizing another female. Daniels said Tuesday it’s possible the mother was referring to the new case, but he doesn’t know of any other possible victims.

“Nobody has reported anything,” the detective added. “If someone comes forward, we will continue with an investigation.”

During the Feb. 4, 2016 sentencing hearing, Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway ruled there was evidence of escalating offenses and Claus “was in a position of trust at the time.” The judge also said the defendant wasn’t “terribly cooperative” with authorities and didn’t take full responsibility for his actions when interviewed as part of his pre-sentence investigation.

Before the offense, the mother said her daughter was carefree and silly, but then she had nightmares, lost sleep, found it difficult to concentrate and had to be reminded to eat. The girl was prepared to speak in court, but declined to do so after her mom addressed the judge and Claus.

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