Recruiter accused of sex assaults
Counts against guardsman involve 6 young women
The National Guard armory where
investigators say some of the assaults occurred is next door to
Noblesville High School. -- Sam Riche / The Star
March 1, 2005
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. --
Investigators say he picked out teens and young women with backgrounds
that made them vulnerable to authority. As a military recruiter, he had
access to personal information, making the quest easier.
Indiana National Guard Sgt.
Eric P. Vetesy, 36, Westfield, was jailed Monday, accused of sexually
assaulting six female recruits -- most of them Noblesville High School
students -- he met during his 18 months as a full-time recruiter. Hamilton
County investigators said Monday he is accused of raping at least one
recruiters reportedly have been linked to at least a half-dozen sexual
assaults during the past few years, since the creation of the federal No
Child Left Behind Act. This broad education law requires, among other
things, that high schools give military recruiters greater access to
The 31-count indictment filed
in Hamilton Superior Court implicates Vetesy in a pattern of sexual
misconduct during a period from May 2002 to November 2003. Authorities
said the incidents occurred after his assignment as a recruiter in August
The six women identified in
the indictment as his victims ranged in age from 17 to 21 at the time of
the alleged assaults.
The Star generally does not
identify victims of sexual abuse.
"These were very young women
who were being recruited out of high school classes," said Hamilton County
Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp. "Most of these activities took place either
before they signed up as an actual recruit for the National Guard, or just
after their recruitment."
Leerkamp said investigators
suspect there may be more victims.
Complaints began in 2004
Vetesy was being held in the
Hamilton County Jail, charged with rape, sexual battery, battery,
attempted sexual battery, official misconduct and corrupt business
Bond was set at $100,000.
Noblesville Police Chief
Richard J. Russell said the complaints against Vetesy began in January
2004, while he was assigned to the National Guard armory in Noblesville
and the Guard's Castleton recruiting office. As a recruiter, he visited
Noblesville and Westfield high schools.
Guard officials transferred
him to a recruiting post with a New Castle unit after an inconclusive
inquiry into the first complaint. After two other complaints surfaced in
May -- one of them a claim of rape -- all three cases were referred to
police for criminal investigation.
The Guard is cooperating with
civilian investigators and will not seek to prosecute Vetesy under
"Our normal procedures are
that if charges are determined to be of a serious nature we will refer the
case to civil authorities," said a prepared statement from Capt. Lisa
Kopczynski, the Guard's public affairs officer.
Vetesy, who became a
recruiter in August 2001, remains in the Indiana National Guard but is no
longer assigned to recruiting.
Vetesy's attorney, Andrew M.
Barker, said he had not talked with his client about the charges and could
"I do not know what evidence
the state has utilized to persuade the grand jury to return an
indictment," he said.
Women called vulnerable
Leerkamp said the felony
charge of corrupt business influence is based on "a particular pattern of
abuse" and Vetesy's position of trust. She said he preyed on young women
whose background, as well as their age, made them particularly vulnerable.
For example, she said, most
were in single-parent families with no father figure. Because Vetesy
assembled background information on each recruit, she added, he was able
to target those he most likely could coerce.
"This is one of the most
heinous investigations of this type that I've ever seen, and one of the
worst abuses of authority," Leerkamp said.
Noblesville Police Detective
Mike Sadler said his investigation showed that Vetesy, who is married and
has children, quickly took advantage of his position of trust and
"Some of the incidents did
occur at the armory," said Sadler, alluding to at least one encounter in
which Vetesy is accused of pushing a woman against the wall of a supply
cage and trying to kiss her.
"Some of them occurred when
he would pick up the females and drive them down to what's called MEPS,
which is the swearing-in ceremony."
MEPS stands for Military
Entrance Processing Station, the Indianapolis facility where recruits are
According to the indictment,
Vetesy put his hand on the woman's leg and touched her inappropriately
while they were driving to the enlistment center. Later, after returning
to the armory, the charges state, he committed sexual battery by pushing
her to a wall of the supply room and touching her inappropriately again.
Detective Sadler said most
victims had been Noblesville High School students who first met Vetesy
during a lunch break.
"We have recruiters from the
armed forces and from colleges who come in on an almost daily basis," said
Noblesville Schools spokeswoman Sharon Trisler, who said each group sets
up tables and answers questions for any inquiring student.
"The kids come up to them.
They're in full view. They're not off in one room or anything like that,"
said Trisler, who said no one had complained about Vetesy. "Whether
there's policy changes that need to be made, that's something that we'll
need to look at."
Military recruiters who visit
Westfield High School have to request permission from the guidance
department to set up tables in the cafeteria.
"That's done in the cafeteria
during lunch time only," said Tenna Pershing, school district spokeswoman.
"It's up to the students to decide whether or not they want to approach
One woman says she was raped
by Vetesy at the Castleton recruiting center in Marion County in June
2003. Chief Deputy Prosecutor Barbara J. Trathen said that woman, who was
17 or 18 at the time, like others had resisted advances by Vetesy but did
not quickly report them.
"It isn't really that unique
in these kinds of situations -- authority figures," Trathen said. "No one
immediately reported because they have the authority issue, the trust
issue and the what's-going-to-happen-to-me issue in the National Guard."
Michael Berg, director of the
Carolina Peace Resource Center, an anti-war group opposed to military
recruitment in schools, said: "It does not surprise me. I don't think, in
general, we should disparage all recruiters as sexual predators. However,
they have undue influence and access to our schools."
The federal No Child Left
Behind Act requires high schools to give military recruiters access to
juniors and seniors -- names, addresses and phone numbers -- unless
written objection is made by parents.
"They can walk around our
hallways and be involved with students the way others are not allowed,"
Berg said in a telephone interview from Columbia, S.C. "Regulations to
protect students go by the wayside when it comes to recruiters."
"Reluctant to say anything"
Once Vetesy had access to the
students, they were hesitant to report incidents, Chief Russell said.
"Some of those people were a
little reluctant to say anything because this was a supervisor . . . and
they were concerned about their military career," he said.
The official state response
said that, after Vetesy was transferred, restrictions were imposed to
prevent him from interacting with female recruits in the Indiana Guard,
which includes reserve Air Force and Army components.
"The nature and character of
these allegations run counter to our organizational values and stated
policies," said the statement, which spokeswoman Kopczynski released late
Monday afternoon after it was approved by the Guard's commander, Adjutant
General R. Martin Umbarger.
"It is the policy of the
Indiana National Guard to ensure that all soldiers are treated with
respect and courtesy and to provide a working environment that is free of
any overt or subtle form of sexual harassment or intimidation."
Maj. Gen. Umbarger, who was
unavailable for comment, was appointed commander just after Guard
officials received the first complaint against Vetesy, and after
controversy over recruiting practices under Umbarger's predecessor.
The recruiting scandal
exposed how more than 100 soldiers had been enlisted based on forged
physical exam forms. In the house-cleaning that followed, with some
recruiters being fired, Vetesy was hired.
Gov. Mitch Daniels said
Monday that he wanted to talk to National Guard officials before
discussing the allegations at length.
"If true, it's horrible," he
Star reporter Barb
Berggoetz contributed to this report.
Call Star reporter James
A. Gillaspy at (317) 444-2608.