MASON — A longtime Lansing-area youth sports referee spent years “grooming” a teenage boy he sexually assaulted, beginning when the boy was still in elementary school and continuing into high school, according to court records.
Gerald Allen Sutter tried to befriend the boy while the child was in grade school in Ingham County, even suggesting he tell his friends Sutter was his grandfather, a detective testified in a hearing that led to charges being issued.
While the boy was attending high school in Eaton County, Sutter “pressured” him into going out to dinner with him and offered to give him “a lot of marijuana for free if he did things for him,” the detective testified.
“I asked (the alleged victim) what that was and Sutter told him he wanted to be friends with him as well as give him massages,” Ingham County Sheriff’s Detective Amber Kenny-Hinojosa told a magistrate in the warrant hearing. The alleged victim said it was clear the massages would be sexual in nature, and Sutter mentioned specifics in subsequent text messages, she said.
Sutter, 70, of Lansing Township, was charged Oct. 26 with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. A hearing to determine if he should stand trial on the charges is set for Nov. 15. Court records indicated Sutter planned to hire an attorney, but did not list an attorney’s name.
Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth announced Sutter’s arrest during a news conference on Oct. 26 and called for other possible victims to come forward, saying many children who played sports in the area would have had games officiated by Sutter, who went by “Gerry” and had a nickname of “Dewey.”
As of Thursday, four other people had come forward to say Sutter had victimized them, and investigators received “numerous” other tips about “grooming-type behavior,” Sheriff’s Capt. Andy Daenzer said. Detectives are investigating and will forward their findings to prosecutors, he said.
The reported sexual assaults occurred at Sutter’s home, apparently beginning in 2019 or 2020, according to the warrant hearing transcript.
The reported victim said he went there the first time after Sutter offered to give him $40, and on another occasion, Sutter offered him $300, the detective testified. The victim said Sutter was “a very big texter and would blow up his phone,” describing the referee as like “an overprotective girlfriend,” Kenny-Hinojosa said.
The investigation began in September in an unusual way.
After another person called to report being sexually assaulted during the late 1990s, another sheriff’s detective who was active in the sports scene recognized Sutter’s name and recalled an incident in which a student may have gone out to dinner with Sutter. He also recalled Sutter bringing candy bars and gifts to student athletes, which he thought was unusual.
That detective contacted a former teacher and coach, who remembered the name of the student who may have gone to dinner with Sutter, Kenny-Hinojosa testified.
When she contacted the alleged victim, he said, “Oh, thank God — Gerry — did they finally get his ass?” she testified.
Sutter officiated school sports around the state but worked most often in mid-Michigan, Wriggelsworth said Oct. 26. He officiated boys and girls athletics, from early childhood through college-level, the sheriff said.
Officials set up a phone line and an email address to collect information from anyone who wants to provide information about Sutter. The phone number is 517-676-8440. The email is email@example.com.
“We want to assure that any person willing to come forward and provide information will be treated with dignity and respect,” Wriggelsworth said when announcing the charges.
Contact Ken Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KBPalm_lsj.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Police: Referee Gerald Sutter spent years ‘grooming’ sex assault victim