By Alex Fees
KSDK -- A 70-year-old man from Randolph County, Illinois, was charged with first-degree statutory sodomy in Franklin County, Missouri, Friday, for the alleged sexual abuse of a three-year-old boy.
Leroy Hesse of Sparta was being held in the Franklin County Jail Friday night on a $50,000 bond.
A Franklin County woman told NewsChannel 5 that her now four-year-old son is one of Hesse's alleged victims. She agreed to talk to a NewsChannel 5 reporter on condition of anonymity. She discussed the initial conversation that raised her suspicions.
"I put my son in the bathtub. When he was ready to get out I went in there and he was fondling himself," she said. "So when I was drying him off I was explaining to him about not doing that, not letting anyone else touch him there."
The woman said that is the conversation that led to an investigation and eventual charges against Hesse.
"And I asked him, 'Did he touch you with his hand?' I was, you know, giving the benefit of the doubt, like maybe it was just something innocent. And my son's reply was, 'No, with his mouth.'"
The woman said that followed a previous incident which Hesse's wife witnessed.
"When she went walking down the hallway she asked what was going on. And when she rounded the corner Leroy jumped up, sat on the edge of the bed and acted very suspiciously. He put his hands down in front of him and was looking at the floor...wouldn't talk to her, wouldn't answer her, wouldn't look at her. And my son ran across his bedroom and stood by his window and he was acting like he was in trouble."
The woman said there are at least three other victims in Illinois, and the abuse goes back at least 17 years.
She said Hesse and his wife lived in Baldwin, Illinois, until a couple years ago, and more recently, in Sparta. She fears there may be other victims because Hesse's wife served as a babysitter for other children, and the couple did a lot of camping with children.
"They went camping all the time," she said. "They went to Sam A. Baker State Park a lot, down by Piedmont, Missouri, as well as in other states."
The woman said other victims claimed Hesse used a train set to lure them in.
"He had a train shed set up in the backyard that he would take children out to show them the trains," she said. "The other victims in Illinois say that's where a lot of the molestation took place."
Franklin County Sheriff's Department officials said during an interview with detectives Hesse admitted to "some inappropriate contact" with the children.