INSIDERS: Victim Speaks Out After Thomasville Man Arrested for 40-Year-Old Sex Crime

Posted at 11:00 PM, Oct 22, 2015
and last updated 2017-12-13 05:24:31-05

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL)-- A Brevard County woman who says she was sexually abused more than 40 years ago is speaking out for the first time after an arrest is made in the case.

She says he was her mother's second husband and at one time a Thomas County, Georgia deputy.

His attorney says the sexual misconduct allegations are untrue.

According to a report from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, on May 5, Richard Vanderhoff was booked into the jail on sexual battery, and rape and forcible carnal knowledge charges, accused of crimes from the 1970's. He was extradited from Thomasville where he was arrested in April.

After we reported his arrest, one of the alleged victims reached out to us, breaking her silence.

For the first time, she's sharing her story. She says she can no longer stay quiet.

Marcee Carpenter says her childhood was taken away from her. She says Richard Vanderhoff molested her for four years and it began in 1970.

Carpenter says she was between the ages of four and eight years old and says it happened in St. Petersburg where she lived.

"He would take our little duck cards and he would put x's on them whoever chose them would have to go into the attic and the things he made us do made us feel really bad," said Carpenter.

She says she couldn't even focus at school.

In 1974, Carpenter says she remembers coming home from the bus stop and telling her mother about the abuse.

She says her mother took her and another child to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

"Some of the questions my mom thought was inappropriate and I could understand at that time." said Carpenter.

They left the sheriff's office because her mother just couldn't handle it all.

"I think that sheet of paper went into a file and that was the end of that," said Carpenter.

 She was put in foster care.

She says for years she tried to prosecute, even approaching Vanderhoff herself in Thomasville in 1997 asking him to confess. 

Vanderhoff worked at the Thomas County Sheriff's Office from 1995-2000 but found himself on the other side of the law in April. 

The arrest comes after the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office received an email about the abuse from an alleged victim on January 14, 2014. 

The sheriff's office sent the case to the St. Petersburg Police Department because that's where they say the offense happened. 

A St. Pete detective was able to track down a handwritten report about the abuse when two children came in, but didn't come back in the 1970's

The victims and other witnesses involved in the case were interviewed and detectives were able to corroborate the stories. Vanderhoff was arrested.

We attempted to speak with Vanderhoff at his home in Thomasville about Carpenter's allegations, but he didn't want to comment.

We were, however, able to speak with his attorney Michael Bross.

Bross says Vanderhoff is an upstanding citizen, and retired from the sheriff's office in good standing. He also added that he has never had a criminal record, not even a traffic infraction.

"Although we don't have to prove or disprove anything it still becomes incumbent upon us to be able to help the state to acknowledge that my client is not guilty," said Bross.

Bross says an item allegedly used in the sex acts is gone.

"Had it been available then we could have shown that clearly that item was never used in a sexual act or for sexual reasons," said Bross.

Carpenter says it's a case that could have fallen through the cracks.

Vanderhoff's attorney says justice is not just for alleged victims it's for alleged defendants.

Carpenter stands firm saying the truth always prevails and that it's never too late for victims of child sex abuse to come forward.

Richard Vanderhoff bonded out of the Pinellas County Jail on May 19. A pre-trial hearing was held October 19. Another one is set for December 14.

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