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OFFICER INDICTED IN RAPE, ASSAULT CASE ;
Genoa Township police are reeling as co-worker faces 10 felony counts
Dana Wilson,
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
DELAWARE, OHIO
A Genoa Township police officer has been accused of using his job to spark off-duty sexual relations with two teenage girls. A Delaware County grand jury yesterday indicted Edsil Spence, 35, of Groveport, on one count of rape, four counts of sexual battery, three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and two counts of kidnapping.

The indictment stems from two separate incidents involving two girls, ages 14 and 16, who are students at Westerville Central High School.

Spence surrendered yesterday afternoon, hours after an arrest warrant was issued. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.

Police Chief Robert Taylor said it was a sad day for his close-knit, 31-officer department in southern Delaware County.

"The allegations alone are very damning and it looks bad for law enforcement," Taylor said. "Our badge has been tarnished."

The 10 felony charges follow an internal-affairs investigation conducted last month.

On Sept. 30, Taylor placed Spence on paid administrative leave. Four days later, a suspicious fire destroyed the officer's home.

Tips about the Oct. 4 fire continue to arrive at the Madison Township Fire Department in Franklin County. Spence owns the burned house on Swisher Road, said Fire Chief Clifford L. Mason.

Fire officials determined the blaze was intentionally set. The Ohio Blue Ribbon Arson Committee is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information about the perpetrator, Mason said.

That investigation is independent of the Delaware County case.

Taylor said the initial probe started when his office received a phone call alleging misconduct. The investigation led police to two girls Spence had met while visiting Westerville Central High School.

The girls are friends and said they had worked for the roofing business Spence runs on the side, Taylor said.

When the allegations turned criminal, the chief turned over the case to the Delaware County prosecutor's office.

Spence started as a reserve officer with the department in 2000 and later was promoted to full-time status. His disciplinary record includes minor infractions, including traffic accidents and a missed court appearance.

The indictment accuses Spence of kidnapping both girls and engaging in sexual conduct March 15 through May 22 in Delaware and Licking County. It also accuses him of kidnapping one of the girls and having intercourse with her May 23 and 24 in Delaware and Franklin County.

Authorities said the incidents began in Delaware County, with Spence picking up the girls and taking them elsewhere.

The girls were aware that Spence was a police officer, Prosecutor Dave Yost said.

"Mr. Spence has dishonored his uniform and his badge. . . . In this case, the seriousness was aggravated because he is a police officer."

His attorney, Ronald Janes of Columbus, said Spence is married with children.

Janes said he hadn't studied the charges, but, "I think it's difficult for anybody, especially if you're in law enforcement, to be on this end of an indictment."

Meanwhile, the Genoa Township Board of Trustees plans to soon meet with Yost and private legal counsel to discuss the charges, Trustee John Rielly said.

He said he's concerned that the allegations might change the public's perception of the police department.

The charges are not "a reflection of the men and women who serve," Rielly said.

Trustee Helen Barber said she was disappointed by the news.

"It's sad," she said. "You just really don't expect that."

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