Man charged after accusations of sexually abusing 11-year-old with Down syndrome

Victim was daughter of 51-year-old defendant’s former fiancée
Updated: Jun. 9, 2022 at 6:20 PM EDT
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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WNDU) - New charges have been filed against a Berrien County man accused of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl with Down syndrome, who was also the daughter of his then-fiancée.

Witnesses testified at Thursday morning’s exam hearing where the judge added four more sex crime charges to 51-year-old Brian VanHorn’s case.

The judge heard from the 11-year-old victim’s mother, one of the officers that responded to the scene where the crimes occurred, and the nurse that examined the victim at the hospital that same night.

These details are disturbing and could be triggering for survivors of sexual assault.

On March 10, the victim’s mother says VanHorn came home drunk and went upstairs at their residence in Royalton Township. She checked in on him around midnight to see how he was doing in the master bedroom.

That’s when she says she found her then-fiancé naked in bed with his 11-year-old potential stepdaughter who has Down syndrome.

She says she intervened by taking her daughter back to her own bed and then confronted VanHorn as he made his way out of the house, to never come back.

“I ask her why she didn’t tell me and she told me, ‘He told me not to.’ The last thing is he’s at the door and I’m like ‘how could you do this? How could you do this to her?’ And he looks at me--it’s like the most sickening [thing]--he said ‘[The victim] and I love each other,’” the victim’s mother said.

The nurse who examined the 11-year-old said the victim claimed VanHorn used his fingers and a vibrator when touching her on March 10.

“I also asked if he’s ever touched her with anything else than the massager and the fingers and she said his private parts. We asked if it happened once or more than once and she says it happened more than once,” said forensic nurse Debra McEldowney.

VanHorn faces a first and second-degree charge for criminal sexual conduct where the victim is younger than 13 and the defendant is older than 17.

He also faces one count of accosting a minor for immoral purposes, one count of assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, and one count of assault with intent to commit penetration.

The first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge alone comes with a minimum of 25 years and a max of life in prison if VanHorn, a former owner of Sensational Spas in Stevensville, is convicted.

VanHorn entered a not guilty plea on all charges and requested a jury trial.

The next time he’ll be back in court will be Sept. 16 for a case conference.

We’ll continue to follow this story as that date approaches.

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