Local News

Man from U.P. accused of sexual assault

The following is a story from our sister station, WOOD TV in Grand Rapids.

A longtime teacher in the Reeths-Puffer school district is being accused of sex crimes from a decade ago and authorities are concerned that he may have victimized some of his students years before that.

Morgan Tatrow, 80, is accused of molesting two family members when they were 10 and 12 years old. The alleged incidents happened between 2008 and 2010, Delta County Prosecutor Brett Gardner told 24 Hour News 8.

"There’s multiple family members with the same story," one of the alleged victim's mothers, who asked not to be identified to protect her daughter's privacy, told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone Tuesday.

Gardner, who was recently appointed to take over as the Delta County prosecutor in the Upper Peninsula, says he expects to soon file a felony case against Tatrow.

Tatrow was previously charged in connection to the allegations but plea negotiations with the former prosecutor’s office led to a felony case being dismissed and being replaced with a misdemeanor case.

When Gardner, who retired in 2013 after serving as the chief assistant prosecutor in Muskegon County, learned of the situation after taking office, he dismissed the misdemeanor case because he felt the charge wasn’t severe enough given the allegations.

After reviewing the case further, he contacted Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson with concerns that former students of Tatrow’s from before he retired may have been victimized. Hilson said statements the suspect made led authorities to share that concern.

“If folks had had this person as a teacher and maybe there was something that happened and they haven’t been able to talk about it but now have the courage and want to talk about it, we want to give them that opportunity," Hilson told 24 Hour News 8. "So at least my office can evaluate it and determine whether or not we can still meet statute of limitations for a crime here or at least assist my counterpart in Delta County with his criminal prosecution."

Reeths-Puffer Schools Superintendent Steve Edwards said there was limited information about Tatrow, who retired in 1992, in the district’s files and that the records that still exist indicate no sign of trouble. Prosecutors say Tatrow taught elementary school in the district for more than 30 years. Edwards said at least some of that time was spent teaching at Twin Lake Elementary, though it wasn’t immediately clear from records if he worked in other buildings.

Tatrow also served for some 20 years on the Orchard View Public Schools Board of Education, Hilson said.

He is currently serving as supervisor in Delta County’s Garden Township, though a recall effort aims to unseat him. The recall effort is not related to the criminal investigation. It centers around a small-town battle about wind turbines.

One of the alleged victims lives out of state and is working with authorities in her hometown, where charges could also be filed, Gardner said.

The victim's mother who spoke with 24 Hour News 8 said she believes that other victims exist. She doubts that the behavior in question would have started for Tatrow at such an old age. She encouraged any potential victims to come forward.

“If one voice can find the power to speak up, you can save pain for so many others down the road," she said. "Because these people ... they’re not going to stop.”

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