Dominick Nykko Cantu, 19, of Holland was 17 when he raped a fellow high school student at a bonfire party in Holland Township in May 2016.
The victim, who spoke at Cantu’s March 5 sentencing, said she is now afraid to have any male touch her, including her father. The victim was about 15 on the night of the bonfire party.
Cantu was originally arrested on a warrant for third-degree criminal sexual conduct, which means the victim was penetrated. As part of a plea agreement, he was charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Although the crime took place in May 2016, it was not reported to police until February 2017. Several West Ottawa High School students were interviewed about the bonfire party by a school resource officer from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office and Cantu was arrested by deputies in September 2017.
A sheriff’s deputy interviewed the host of the party, who was also a West Ottawa student at the time of the interview. Many party-goers had been drinking, but at some point during the night the host and one of the victim’s friends noticed the victim was missing. The host started looking in car windows trying to find the victim, and came across a car with a few guys standing around it. The host asked to get by them, and the individuals let him through.
The host told police he looked into the window of the car and saw the victim inside. He opened the car door and pulled Cantu off the victim, then helped the victim out of the car and picked her up. The party host helped the victim get fully clothed, then carried her to her vehicle.
“He stated that (the victim) seemed very confused and did not even know who (the host) was, even though they were good friends,” the police report reads. “As he carried her out to her ride, she did throw up twice.”
According to a police report written by Deputy Mike Veldkamp, the West Ottawa school resource officer, one of the victim’s friends said the victim later told the friend she was taken to a car out back by the barn by Cantu at the party. The victim told Cantu to stop his actions, and his response was to tell the victim to be quiet.
A few days after the party, Cantu messaged the victim and the victim confronted him about what happened at the party. Cantu told the victim that “if she tells people that he raped her that he will get people to fight her,” according to the police report, obtained by The Sentinel via the Freedom of Information Act.
At his sentencing, Cantu said he is sober now and he’s “learning to understand.”
“At the time, I was a kid in high school,” he said.
In her statement to the court, the victim said she had wandered away from the bonfire and was drunk. She said Cantu grabbed her arm, but she thought he was trying to help her — until he guided her to a car and pushed her down on the seat. She said she prayed to God for help, but by the time someone opened the car door and pulled him off her, he had already finished the act.
Judge Karen Miedema said the victim’s statement about how her relationship with her faith and her parents have been affected by Cantu’s assault were vital.
“The comments by (the victim) were very powerful because they were honest and really explained to me the effect of that evening,” Miedema said.
When police tried to arrest Cantu in September, he fled from the deputy and a K-9 team had to track him to a wood pile in someone’s backyard. He was eventually booked at the Ottawa County Jail on Feb. 5 of this year.
Cantu was also ordered to pay more then $6,000 in restitution to the victim.