By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
It took just 20 minutes of deliberation for a Madison County jury Thursday to convict a 78-year-old Anderson man of child molestation and get him off the street.
Robert E. Whipple was found guilty of two counts of Class A felony child molestation and one count of Class C child molestation.
He faces from 20 to 50 years in prison on each Class A felony count, and two to eight years for the Class C felony. Whipple is being held without bond in the Madison County Jail.
He’s scheduled to be sentenced later this month by Circuit Court Judge Dennis Carroll. It seems likely he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
With the jury’s conviction, three women — two adults and a 16-year-old — were freed from their own prison of fear and shame and the stigma of what happened to them as children.
The Herald Bulletin normally does not publish the names of abuse victims, but two of the three women agreed to speak with a reporter in hopes of helping other abuse victims if their last names were not published.
For Angel, justice has been a long time coming.
In the late 1970s, Whipple molested Angel, now 39. She was his niece by marriage and he used to babysit her. The abuse went on for three to four years because she finally had the courage to speak up in 1980. Anderson police investigated her allegations, and Whipple was charged with a Class C felony. His punishment was two years of counseling, Angel said.
She was never satisfied and worried for years there might be other victims.
“I feel like I’ve kind of been in my own little prison, of sorts, while he’s remained free,” said Angel. “I believe in mercy, but I also believe in justice. He’s a predator. ... I feel relief that he’s off the street. I feel relief that the truth did prevail.”
Destinee was 13 when she began spending nights at Whipple’s house in December 2009. Her mother, Marie, worked a night shift and worried about her daughter being home alone.
Destinee would arrive in late afternoon, take a shower, eat dinner and do her homework.
The first night she spent there, Destinee went to use the shower in the finished basement of Whipple’s house, but he told her it was broken and directed her to use a bath on an upper level.
She laid her clothes out in the spare bedroom.
“When I came out of the bath the first time, my clothes were gone,” Destinee said. “I asked him where my clothes were at, and they were in his room. I went in his room and he shut the door behind me and told me to take my towel off.”
Ever since she was 9, Destinee said, Whipple would put powder on her after bathing, “I’ve known him my whole life as my grandpa, so I trusted him and never really thought anything about it.”
Through that December and into January 2010, there were more instances of inappropriate touching. She objected, loudly telling him to stop, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case.
“Really, it was like one thing led to another with him,” Destinee said. “Then, after he went all the way as far as he could go, he told me if I told anybody that he was going to kill my mom.”
Destinee told her best friend what had happened, and later her school counselor who directed the family to talk with police.
The family made a report, but were told it was a case of Destinee’s word against Whipple’s, A year passed.
That’s when Anderson police Detective Scott Sanderson called.
“He’s kind of everyone’s knight in shining armor,” said Angel.
Sanderson dug through ancient files in dusty police archives after hearing Angel’s name come up during his investigation, Destinee and her mother, Marie, said. Sanderson could not be reached for comment for this story.
And until last week’s trial, Destinee and Angel had never met.
Angel was not allowed to testify at the trial. Whipple was convicted on the strength of Destinee’s testimony alone.
In the years since her abuse, Destinee has suffered panic attacks, and had to withdraw from school because Whipple lived nearby and she couldn’t tolerate riding by his house.
Now, with Whipple in jail, Destinee said she hopes to return to classes at Anderson High School, resume her softball career and eventually pursue a career in law enforcement.
Destinee said she doesn’t hate Whipple, but his actions created a deep rift in the family that may never be repaired.
Destinee’s biological grandmother, (Whipple’s wife), didn’t believe her story, and attended the trial in support of her husband.
“When my grandmother didn’t believe me that was really hard,” Destinee said. “Because of him I’ve lost so much.”
Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.