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Circleville man with ties to homeless ministry charged with rape

Police and the Ohio State Highway Patrol Computer Crimes Unit served a search warrant on August 10 at 540 East Franklin Street.

CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio — The Circleville Police Department arrested a man accused of using a Christian outreach ministry for the homeless to locate and abuse victims.

Officials initially received information regarding the multiple sexual assaults of juveniles and conducted a search warrant at 56-year-old Hank Stapleton's residence where multiple items of evidence were seized.

Stapleton was arrested and taken to jail on charges of one count of rape and two counts disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.

Police say Stapleton ran the ministry out of a trailer, and that he may have used that trust and access to kids.

“It's very concerning that we have an individual claiming to be doing a charity, but using it to groom children almost,” detective Jon Farrelly said.

More charges are expected and pending at this time.

Police say they are investigating claims from at least five victims, boys aged 12-16 and say there could be more.

They are asking for parents who know their children spent time with Stapleton to talk to their kids.

“Have them talk to councilors, have them talk to someone they are comfortable talking to because it is a very sensitive in nature subject,” Farrelly said.

One of Stapleton's neighbors, who asked to be identified as Jane, said she trusted him enough to let her teenage son spend time along with him.

“We had, what I thought was a trusting relationship,” she said. “I was mad at myself and literally sick to my stomach,"

She says nothing happened between her son and Stapleton.

“I'm thankful he was caught now because I felt like he was grooming my son,” Jane said.

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