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Six charged with abusing children, police say more arrests planned

May 30, 1997

YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) _ The small brick house in this quiet neighborhood looks like any other on the block, where across the street neighbors are flying American flags.

Inside, though, it stank so bad and was so infested with cockroaches that police had to wear plastic aprons, surgical masks and gloves in their search for evidence about sexual abuse against children.

Four men and two women were charged with criminal sexual conduct Thursday, on 17 counts of alleged abuse against a girl who was younger than 13.

State police investigators said at least five more people would be arrested on similar charges. They said the group had molested at least 15 children ranging in age from 16 months to 9 years old.

Harvey Santure, who was previously charged with two counts of sexual misconduct, was saddled with six additional charges Thursday.

Michigan State Police Lt. Brit Weber said he befriended parents by doing them favors. ``As a result parents trusted him and he became a baby sitter,″ he said.

Investigators reportedly opened the case after a 6-year-old girl and her 5-year-old brother ran screaming to their guardian last Easter after allegedly being molested at the home.

Some neighbors said children in the area were told to avoid walking in front of the house.

Penny LaMarra, who has lived for four years across the street from the house where the alleged abuse happened, said she called police last summer when she saw one child being taken into a van outside the house and then heard screams.

No one answered the door at the house Thursday evening. Inside the house belongings were strewn about, and a light was turned on.

Santure, whose parents were also charged with criminal sexual conduct Thursday, has already been in jail for a month on two previous sex assault charges. At the hearing Thursday, Santure pleaded innocent to the new charges and a judge ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Wearing a bushy red beard and weighing more than 400 pounds, Santure said nothing at the hearing other than to state his name and acknowledge he was aware of the charges. In his application for a public defender, Santure wrote that he was single with one dependent and had no job, listing public assistance money as his only income.

The day before, troopers arrested five others they say assaulted a girl. Among those arrested: Santure’s parents _ Carl H. Santure, 71, and Bernice Santure, 63. Phylis L. Wehagen, 49, and her son Frankie A. Wehagen, 30, also were charged with two counts each of criminal sexual conduct. Isiah Simpson, 30, also faces two charges.

State police investigators said that all six had lived in the Ypsilanti home, west of Detroit. They said there also were other suspects in the neighborhood and that while members of the group knew each other, they weren’t part of an organized effort to abuse children.

``How did these people find each other?″ Weber asked. ```We’re kind of looking for a common thread.″

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