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FF12: Multiple students come forward after man with Bethel College ties arrested for sexual battery

Published: Nov. 12, 2019 at 10:18 PM CST
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North Newton police say multiple women are coming forward with accusations of sexual battery after the arrest of an 84-year-old man with ties to Bethel College.

Ted Mueller was arrested in October, accused of sexually assaulting a woman at his North Newton home on Aug. 1, 2018.

“The female victim contacted the North Newton Police Department this past January about the incident,” said Harvey County Attorney David Yoder in a news release. “Police investigated, submitting their information to the Harvey County Attorney’s Office in February.”

Mueller is charged with two counts of sexual battery and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct.

“Once the word got out about the investigation, more victims started coming forward with statements,” says North Newton Police Chief Randy Jordan.

Victim advocate Jason Miller contacted Factfinder 12 because he’s concerned Bethel College didn’t act soon enough and isn’t doing enough for alleged victims now.

“There's a clear pattern of targeting and testing and grooming,” says Miller, who has talked with many of the women. He and Jordan say some of the women include German exchange students who attended Bethel.

Police say other students did report Mueller misconduct to Bethel which prompted two Title IX investigations. Here’s how Bethel President Jon Gering explains the investigations to school staff and students.

“Ted entered into the Bethel College Title IX reporting system in 2016 and 2017,” said Gering in the statement. “In 2016, Bethel College received an informal complaint from a student who did not request any adjudication on our part and did not want their name shared with Ted. We continue to support their wishes today. The substance of the complaint involved a verbal comment in a public setting. The Title IX Committee gave Ted a warning and denied him access to areas with sensitive information. In 2017, Bethel College received a formal report of unwanted touching (on the back) and suggestive comments about hair color, both of which occurred in a public setting. Following the formal complaint, the Title IX Committee required Ted to undergo mediation. The meditation concluded at the request of the student.”

But Miller and Chief Jordan say the student only “concluded” the mediation because Bethel wanted the woman to meet with Mueller and she refused because she didn’t feel comfortable.

Chief Jordan says while some students reported concerns about Mueller to the school, others didn’t feel safe to do so. He says the accusations go back almost 20 years.

“In the course of this investigation that's clearly the case that they didn't feel comfortable,” said Jordan. “We have to figure out a way to fix that.”

According to Bethel, Mueller was a volunteer with KIPCOR, the Kansas Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution, an affiliate organization of the college. That gave him access to student information, although according to the college, he lost that access after the first Title IX investigation.

Mueller’s wife and daughter have both served on Bethel’s board of directors, and Mueller donates to the college. Documents show Mueller is listed in the “President’s Circle” which is for donors who give $5000 or more per year.

FactFinder 12 confirmed there were complaints made against Mueller to the school prior to the Title IX investigations. But that’s where it appears to stop. Jordan says the school never contacted authorities.

Although Bethel “denied access” to student information, Mueller was allowed to come on campus and volunteer for KIPCOR. He wasn’t banned from campus until January 2019 after the criminal investigation was made public.

“I don't understand how he was not banned from campus,” said Miller. “It's unconscionable to not protect students after you know that.”

But even after being banned from campus, Factfinder 12 obtained an e-mail showing Mueller was still contacting German exchange students. In a letter dated March 2019, he tells the student he wants to welcome her to Bethel College and invites her to his home for dinner once she arrives.

When FactFinder 12 went to Mueller’s home to ask about the allegations, he said his attorney had instructed him not to talk about the accusations.

Bethel President Jon Gering declined an interview with FactFinder 12 but released the following statement.

“The College made timely and appropriate sanctions on Mr. Mueller to ensure the physical and emotional safety of students, faculty, and staff. Bethel College is in compliance with both Title IX and Clery Act guidelines, as determined by a recent visit from the Higher Learning Commission (Bethel’s accrediting agency). Mr. Mueller’s alleged actions on August 1, 2018 were made known to Bethel College on December 16, 2018. Consequently, Bethel removed Mr. Mueller from his volunteer position at KIPCOR and restricted his access to campus. Bethel has cooperated with local law enforcement agencies in the ongoing criminal investigation.”

Chief Jordan and Miller want victims to know they have a place to turn and people who will listen.

“What we all want is for victims to feel safe and that someone is going to believe their story,” said Jordan. “We should be trying to fix it but that doesn't seem to be the case right now. I'm determined and others are, but I'm not sure everyone is on board right now.”

“It’s clear Bethel made mistakes and the only thing we ask for is you acknowledge the mistakes,” said Miller. “Correct them and apologize.”