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September 28, 2017
Four high school students were arrested Sept. 28 after warrants were issued under charges of felony assault, sexual abuse in the second degree and first degree robbery.
Johnston Police Department (JPD) received a complaint Sept. 18 regarding a 15-year-old victim after an anonymous tip was sent to the school. Police say the school immediately made police aware of the incident.
JPD held a press release Sept. 28 at 11 a.m. Spokesman Lieutenant Tyler Tompkins gave a statement, however many details of the case are being withheld.
“I want to protect our victim as much as possible, I’m sure you can understand that,” Tompkins said.
Police say the alleged assault took place Sept. 8 at Morgan Hough’s residence in Johnston.
After police became aware of the allegations, interviews were conducted with the victim and his parents.
After an investigation that Tompkins said included multiple search warrants and interviews, charges were placed against four students.
“We got to a point where we took our information and presented it to the county attorney and are using charges that they recommended,” Tompkins said.
Seniors Morgan Hough and Ritter Stahlbaum were taken to Polk County Jail, while sophomores Kaden Dishman and Noah Lamar were taken to Meyer Hall juvenile facility in Des Moines.
“While all of these are Johnston school students, I want to impress on you that this event did not happen at the school and did not happen at a school sponsored event anywhere,” Tompkins said.
Tompkins did not comment on what the students were doing or if they were under the influence of any substances.
He could not confirm if there are any pictures or videos or on the extent of the victim’s injuries.
How the juvenile suspects will be tried will be determined later. Stahlbaum, who is 17, was taken to Polk County Courthouse for an initial hearing with a judge. He was then sent to the Polk County Jail instead of a juvenile facility.
“We have a responsibility to the victim and to the suspects,” Tompkins said. “We feel very comfortable with these charges with the information that the detectives have uncovered over the last few days.”
Tompkins considers the ages of the suspects to be unusual.
“It is uncommon,” he said. “I can’t say I’ve worked another case like this, I’ve been doing this 15 or so years now.”
The investigation has been hard for officers at times.
“It’s a difficult case,” he said. “It takes a toll on the officer, especially when its dealing with kids where you get into a more vulnerable part of the community.”
Guidance counselors are available to students.
“We have been working with the school throughout all of this to make sure all students’ needs are being met,” Tompkins said.
Since Stahlbaum went in front of a judge, conditions have been made upon his arrest. Stahlbaum is not allowed to have contact with the victim, nor can he be on Johnston School District property. He is not to have unsupervised contact with anybody under the age of 18, and cannot live in a house with any weapons.
Polk County Attorney John Sarcone asked for the same conditions to be made for the other suspects, and they are likely to be presented at their initial hearings.
“We will – and are – doing all we can to maintain a safe and orderly environment for all students and staff in our district,” Johnston Community School District Director of Communications Laura Sprague said in an email.
Details regarding the arrests can be read on the City of Johnston website or on the Johnston Police Department’s Facebook page.
The case is ongoing.
Following an initial appearance in court Sept. 29, bond was posted for Morgan Hough ’18 and Ritter Stahlbaum ’18. Bond is total of $60,000, the breakdown of which can be seen above.
Bond is different from bail as it is often paid through a bail bond company.
According to Iowa Courts Online, a public defender was appointed and a no contact order put in effect.
Hough and Stahlbaum were arrested at school Sept. 28 after being charged with first degree robbery, second degree sexual abuse and assault.
Iowa Courts Online also shows that Stahlbaum’s total bond was set Sept. 28 to $60,000 however a motion for bond reduction was filed Sept. 29.