The Journal Gazette
Saturday, June 26, 2021 1:00 am

Call to suicide hotline leads to molesting charges

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

A 13-year-old girl contacted the National Suicide Hotline crisis chat service in late September to say a man had been abusing her since she was 5 years old. 

She had been suffering emotional and sexual abuse, she said. 

Robert Romero Jr., 57, of the 6800 block of Winford Shoals, was charged Thursday with Level 1 child molesting and Level 4 child molesting, both felonies. 

After the victim called the suicide hotline, the Department of Child Services was notified. Family case manager Scott Qualls investigated and reported it to the victim's school. 

The victim was interviewed at the Dr. Bill Lewis Center for Children and said the sexual abuse began when she was 5 years old. It occurred when she was sitting on a couch with Romero and he had her perform a sex act on him, court documents said. 

She then detailed other acts of sexual abuse and said, one time, a female relative walked into the room and Romero covered himself up with a Dallas Cowboys blanket. The victim jumped up and stopped. 

One of the victim's friends said the victim told her about the abuse and the friend told her “she needed to tell somebody,” court documents said. 

When Romero spoke to police, he denied the allegations, court documents said. 

An older female relative told police Romero molested her in 2012 in Columbia City when she was 15. She told her father at that time and a police report was filed along with DCS, court documents said. 

Fort Wayne officer Kenneth Johnson confirmed with Kosciusko County DCS that a report had been filed after a DCS investigation was conducted in 2012 by family case manager Kelly Bugg. DCS substantiated the allegation of sexual abuse by Romero. 

Romero was being held at the Allen County Jail in lieu of $35,000 bail, an Allen County Jail spokesman said. He has a court hearing Monday.

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