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2 men sent to prison for preying on teens

Becky Vargo • Apr 17, 2018 at 7:24 PM

Two Ottawa County men charged in separate cases of preying on teenage girls were both sent to prison for a minimum of three years following their hearings Monday in Ottawa County Circuit Court.

Thomas VanderWaal, 33, of Jenison, and Cory Stout, 38, of Allendale, will also have to register as sex offenders.

The high end of VanderWaal’s sentence is 20 years. He was charged with child abusive commercial activity.

The top end for Stout is 15 years in prison. He was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Judge Karen Miedema worked her way through police reports, denying defense attorneys’ attempts to dissuade her from scoring their clients as sexual predators. That part of the sentencing scoring would mean their clients faced longer prison terms.

Despite Vanderwaal’s apologies, Miedema said the man’s actions were predatory. The judge said the man gave the girl sex toys and told her to use them in the shower.

“The defendant took pictures of her while she was in the shower,” Miedema said. “That’s predatory.”

Both the victim and her father spoke at the court hearing. The father noted that his daughter lost trust in people close to her as a result of the situation. The father said the defendant exploited his position as a parental figure and exploited the girl with his “lewd acts.”

The victim said the man manipulated her so that she was afraid to tell anyone what was happening.

“He hurt me mentally by making me feel bad about myself,” she said.

The girl ended up moving from her family home and in with her father. She had to change schools and churches, she told the judge.

Miedema said the man’s directions to the 14-year-old girl were for the primary purpose of victimizing her.

“The impact on her has been very significant,” the judge said. “Not only from his actions, but also the ongoing ramifications of his actions.”

In noting the predatory actions in the Stout case, Miedema said: “You sought her out. You befriended her. You made her feel special. You gave her a phone (after her mother had taken away a previous phone to stop contact). You gave her a ring. You got down on one knee and asked her to marry you. She took that seriously. You gave her a Plan B (morning-after contraceptive) pill.”

Both men were emotional when they made their apologies before going off to prison.

“I’m not going to make any excuses,” Stout said. “There are none. ... I’m so very sorry for many reasons. She’s 15 and she doesn’t deserve any of this.”

Both men were also ordered to pay any restitution determined and not to have any contact with the victims.

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