NewsLocal News

Actions

Relatives, victims of convicted child molester upset over upcoming release date

The family has unsuccessfully been trying to appeal the decision
Posted at 10:34 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 00:14:49-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Relatives who are also victims of a convicted child molester are shocked to learn he's up for release.

This comes after a parole board decision, which family members are heartbroken over.

Family members say they know of 10 alleged victims that Jerry Eastman targeted. When the majority of victims came forward, relatives say the statute of limitations had already passed. In turn, Eastman faced charges in only one case - a young boy in the family who was targeted by not only Jerry but also his late wife Kathy, according to court documents.

Family says the boy was as young as four or five when the abuse started and would lure the boy into their bedroom to sexually abuse him.

The couple pleaded no contest to first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minimum sentence of seven years. At sentencing, the judge had set the maximum at 100 years, which family says was designed to send a message to the parole board to keep him behind bars for longer.

According to MDOC, Eastman was interviewed during the week of June 7 and was eventually granted a parole. His minimum term is seven years with a maximum potential of 100 years. They describe him as having a "high probability of parole" with his guidelines score.

They hoped Eastman's quote "pattern of behavior" would keep him behind bars for the maximum sentence of 100 years, but the parole board made their decision to release him at an expected date of November 3, 2021.

"Seven years is not long enough, and he needs to stay in there" said Sherie Hansen, Jerry's stepdaughter who was one of his alleged victims.

Other victims, who were also relatives, came forward during that court case, including Jerry's niece Rayna Flinn.

"So he was a part of my life every day," Hansen said. "He would watch me sleep at night, waiting for my sister, who I shared the bed with, to go to sleep. It was just an everyday thing."

As victims, they said they noticed the warning signs, when Jerry and Kathy allegedly started targeting the boy, Jenny's son.

"The things that they did to my son, are just unforgivable the things they taught my son, are just imaginable," Jenny, who chose not to give her last name out of privacy, said. "And the things that they did. No child should ever have to go through that ever."

Jenny recently received a letter stating that parole had been granted to Eastman, with a tentative date of release in November.

The letter also stated that she had 28 days to appeal it, so Jenny called circuit court. She made phone call after phone call with no results.

"The lady had no idea what I was talking about," Jenny said. "I don’t know who else to contact you know when you call this circuit court, you know, they just give you websites or give you another phone number to call, and my 28 days are wasting."

Her other relatives have also tried to appeal the parole, with no luck and only growing fear as the deadline nears.

"I'm panicked," Hansen said. "I know that he is going to come and get me I don't, I don't have a doubt in my mind that he's going to get me.

"I feel like they're from victimized all over again," Flinn said. "He's gonna do it again. It's just a matter of time."

She's ultimately been told that she will have to hire an attorney to appeal, but that doesn't guarantee a change to the decision. To her, it's yet another obstacle in a complicated court system.

It’s just very hurtful and other families shouldn't have to go through the same thing I’m going through, they need to make the process easier," Jenny said.

We contacted the Michigan Department of Corrections, who stated Jerry Eastman has successfully served the minimum term of 7 years and had a high probability of parole, based on the standards to grant parole.

We also learned that the MDOC does not facilitate an appeal, meaning victims have to contact the prosecutor or an attorney to start the process.

MDOC provided the following statement regarding Eastman to Fox 17: "Mr. Eastman was interviewed during the week of June 7 and was eventually granted a parole. His minimum term is seven years with a maximum potential of 100 years. He had a high probability of parole with his guidelines score which shifts the burden to the parole board to determine if one of 13 standardized substantial or compelling reasons are present under state law. With no applicable substantial or compelling reason his parole is granted. Upon release he will have served 100% of his minimum term and be subject to an additional two years of supervision on parole.

Regarding their attempts to contact someone about his appeal, the family would appeal through the county prosecutor’s office or by way of their private counsel. The MDOC does not facilitate their appeal, they should be contacting the prosecutor or a private attorney to file their appeal. It wouldn’t be us that’s not getting back to them."

Follow FOX 17: Facebook - Twitter - Instagram - YouTube