Police: City man molested two girls

A 56-year-old Columbus man has been charged in court with molesting two young girls.

John Lee Zook of 5983 S. Jonesville Road was charged with child molesting as a Class A felony, the state’s most significant level of crime short of murder, and two charges of child molesting as a Class C felony.

During Zook’s initial hearing Friday, evidence was introduced in court that indicated molestation of both girls occurred over seven-year periods each.

The older victim, now an adult, said she was first molested by Zook when she was 6, and the acts continued for another seven years, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed by Bartholomew County sheriff’s investigator Jason Williams.

She also told investigators in September the defendant committed what the court described as a “deviant sexual act” on her, as well as touching her inappropriately several times, the affidavit stated.

When police questioned Zook, he not only admitted his guilt, but also revealed there was a second female victim, Williams wrote.

During questioning, the younger victim — still a minor — said she was also 6 when Zook first touched her inappropriately, and the molestations also continued for seven years, the affidavit stated.

Court records indicate that when the reported molestations of the older victim stopped in 2005, they began on the younger one.

The younger victim told Williams she had no intention of reporting the acts, which ended three years ago, and has only told her therapist about being molested, the affidavit stated.

If convicted of all charges, Zook could be sentenced to between 22 and 66 years in prison, as well as ordered to pay up to $30,000 in fines.

Zook was arrested at 11:38 a.m. Thursday by Williams and Capt. Chris Roberts and booked into the Bartholomew County jail at 12:08 p.m.

While Zook was still behind bars Friday, Bartholomew Circuit Judge Stephen Heimann issued a no-contact order between the females and the defendant.

Zook, who has worked as a laborer for more than 20 years, told Heimann he would attempt to hire his own attorney rather than have a public defender appointed to represent him.

The judge has set two tentative dates for Zook. A change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for March 21, while the trial date is set for April 5. Both are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Bond for Zook was set at $750,000, which means he would have to pay $75,000 in cash to be released from jail.

What's next?

During an initial hearing in Bartholomew Circuit Court, the following dates have been set in the case of John Lee Zook.

  • Attorney status hearing – Jan. 25 at 10 a.m.
  • Change of plea hearing – March 21 at 8:30 a.m.
  • Tentative jury trial – April 5 at 8:30 a.m.
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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.