Molest charges result in plea

A resident of the Bethel Village subdivision accused of molesting two young girls for several years has plead guilty in Bartholomew Circuit Court.

John Lee Zook, 56, of 5983 S. Jonesville Road, Columbus, originally was charged with three counts of molesting, including one as a Class A felony — the state’s most significant level of crime short of murder.

Under those charges, he could have been ordered to serve up to 66 years behind bars as well as pay up to $30,000 in fines.

But on Monday, Judge Stephen Heimann accepted a plea agreement that allowed Zook to admit his guilt to only two counts of child molesting as a Class B and Class C felony.

He could still receive an eight- to 28-year prison term as well as be ordered to pay up to $20,000 when he appears before Heimann for sentencing at 1:30 p.m. May 5.

One day after his arrest, evidence was introduced during his Dec. 18 initial court hearing that indicated the 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 a Bartholomew County sheriff’s investigator.

That victim also told investigators in September that 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, the court record states.

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 more than three years ago, and has only told her therapist about being molested, the affidavit stated.

While bond for Zook originally was set at $75,000 cash, Heimann agreed to reduce it in January to $25,000 — but only under stringent conditions.

In addition to not having any contact with the two victims, Zook also agreed to remain under electronic monitoring and attend all court-order mental health treatments as his case proceeded through the judicial system.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.