WAYLAND, Mich. — Lori Rohde still gets chocked up when talking about her daughter’s bravery.
Her 11-year-old daughter, who FOX 17 is choosing not to name because of her young age, told police in June 2019 that she found a cellphone recording her while she was in the restroom of the Dollar General on Superior Street.
“I’m so unbelievably proud,” Rohde said with tears in her eyes during an interview with FOX 17 Thursday afternoon. ”I mean, it breaks my heart but I’m so proud and she was so brave in what she did.”
Rohde said back on June 7, 2019 her daughter, who was 10 years old at the time, walked into the Dollar General looking to buy a notebook and a snack to eat. However, she had to use the restroom.
“So she asked the store clerk if she could use the bathroom,” Rohde recalled. “He told her that she could but he needed to go back there first.”
Minutes later, he returned and the 10-year-old went to the restroom, Rohde said. However when her daughter was washing her hands, she noticed a phone was propped up and facing her.
“She went over to the phone and she noticed that it was recording,” Rohde said. “She did stop the recording.”
Rohde’s daughter was devastated, she said. The family immediately told the Wayland Police Department.
“Police investigated and determined who the phone belong to,” said Wayland Police Chief Mark Garnsey. “We seized that phone. Subsequently, we did a search warrant on the residence of the owner of the phone.”
There police seized electronic devices from the person’s home, he said. Then they sent the materials to the state police crime lab in Coldwater and later learned that it contained hundreds of pictures of children.
“After that examination was complete, we began interviewing and looking for more witnesses, trying to identify people located on the approximately 250-300 images (found),” Garnsey said. “When the investigation was complete, doctors analyzed the photographs to determine the ages of some of the kids we couldn’t identify.”
Garnsey said on Jan. 17, 2020 the suspect, 27-year-old Timothy Keckler, turned himself into authorities. He was then formally charged with two counts of aggravated child sexually abusive activity and two counts of computer use to commit a crime, among others.
The Wayland Police Department stated in a press release that “there is no evidence of the actual physical abuse or assault on any child or adult victims."
“These are serious charges,” Garnsey said. “The prosecutor we have in this county takes these charges seriously and crimes against children are aggressively pursued in Allegan County.”
Rohde said she was grateful. Her message to all parents and kids is to ‘be aware of your surroundings at all times.
“I don’t know how many people went into that bathroom and didn’t see that,” she said. “It’s just taking that second to look around. There’s so many different ways to video record people these days and to just be aware. Teach your children.”
In a statement, Dollar General said:
[We are] deeply concerned about these allegations against a former employee, and we are cooperating with local authorities in their investigation. We are referring all additional media inquiries to law enforcement as to not hinder their investigation.