Community takes action after man charged with sex crimes, exploiting children

Posted at 6:35 PM, Nov 17, 2016

SPARTA, Mich. -- A man from Sparta faces life in prison after police say he admitted to raping and exploiting children.

The case against Tyler Lowis, 22, broke following a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited children when authorities found child pornography on Lowis' Dropbox account. Monday Lowis was arrested after state police issued a search warrant, when he confessed to having sex with two boys, filmed it, and lead troopers to additional child pornography in his possession, according to court documents.

Lowis was recently cast in an upcoming play with the Sparta Community Theatre which uses the Sparta Area Schools’ facilities, is a group of all ages including students. In response, Sparta Area Schools Human Resources Director Joel Stoner released a letter to families stating they are implementing a buddy system for adults and kids, as well as instating criminal background checks for anyone involved with the theatre group 18 and older.

Thursday, after speaking with FOX 17 Sparta Area Schools Superintendent Gordie Nickels released this letter, reassuring families Lowis is no longer allowed on school property pending his criminal proceedings:

"Dear Parents,

You may be aware that a Sparta resident was arrested earlier this week and charged with child pornography and criminal sexual conduct offenses.  Though this person lives in our Sparta Community and graduated from Sparta Area Schools, he has never been an employee of the school system nor has he been a volunteer.  It recently came to our attention, however, that he was a member of the cast for “Cats,” our Sparta Community Theatre play.  Though this is not a school-related function, the Sparta Community Theatre uses our auditorium after school hours for their rehearsal and performances.  Upon learning information pertaining to the individual’s arrest, including the nature of the alleged offense and charges, we immediately contacted the Sparta Community Theatre’s Director for the play and advised her that the individual would not be allowed on school property pending the outcome of the judicial process.   In further discussion with the Director, knowing that our students often participate in many of their plays, we decided that even though such plays are not a school-related function, it would be prudent for the Sparta Community Theatre to follow our school processes more closely.  A memo sharing some of those new protocols for the Sparta Community Theatre was sent out to the cast via their web site.  I share this information with you so that parents have the facts as it relates to Sparta Area Schools.  It is with regret that I have to share this information with you, but please know that we work diligently to provide a safe environment for all of our students."

According to court documents, Lowis told state police he had been sexually abusing two brothers, 14 and 12-years-old; having sex with at least one of the boys since 2015 up until last week.

The documents describe videos of Lowis and one boy “making him use a sippy cup, baby bottle, and diapers during sex," and Lowis calling the boy his "baby boy," referring to himself as “daddy.”

Lowis was living with his wife at the Parkwood Green, a Sparta mobile home community. Neighbors told FOX 17 they were shocked and worried for the many children in their tight-knit community, including one who runs a nearby daycare.

The Parkwood Green owner and resident Kim Arnold, who bought the property five years ago, told FOX 17 it is a safe community: they check criminal backgrounds do not allow sex offenders to live there, as Lowis had no prior criminal record.

“As far as our community goes, we’re going to continue to work hard to keep our kids safe," said Arnold. "I think it’s an isolated situation, because we’ve never ever, in the five years I’ve had the community, ever had a situation like this. We’re going to do everything to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

"I’m just really, really, shocked and if anything comes out of this I hope that parents can really work to monitor what their kids are taking off the internet, social media, also their cell phones."

Arnold says he wants to implement a formal neighborhood watch group and work with the Kent County Sheriff's Department to ensure residents' safety.

Lowis remains in custody, facing life in prison if convicted on charges including first-degree criminal sexual conduct.