Dustin Hypes, 34, and Robert Feltes, 36, both of Ripley, were arrested after weeks of investigation into sexual abuse and assault allegations involving children.
Hypes has been charged with two counts of first-degree sexual assault and one count of first-degree sexual abuse, while Feltes was charged with criminal invasion of privacy.
According to investigators, the two men are neighbors at a housing complex in Ripley.
Ross Mellinger, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy, said the investigation began around three weeks ago when an 11-year-old girl told a neighbor about the sexual abuse she had endured by Hypes since she was six-years-old.
“The more we dug, the more we found,” Mellinger said.
According to Mellinger, there are currently five victims ranging in age from three to 14-years-old; however, investigators expect there could be more.
“You don’t see predators working in conjunction with one another very often,” Mellinger said.
Deputies said Feltes has admitted to placing a cell phone with a surveillance app in a vent to capture images of a juvenile who was bathing. He has been accused of sending those images to Hypes.
During a warrant search on April 30, deputies located over 3,000 thumbnail files on Hypes’ cell phone.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Jackson County Magistrate Court, a majority of the images were pornographic in nature, with many depicting scenes of what appeared to be young females.
Hypes eventually agreed to speak with investigators, who say he denied allegations of sexually molesting children but admitted to “peaking” at a girl in the shower. When asked about the images on his phone, he informed deputies that Feltes had sent them to him.
Mellinger said he is concerned that there may be more victims in the housing complex with children being home from school due to COVID-19.
“It’s really been a Pandora’s box of sexual misconduct involving such a variety of kids and this particular housing complex that they lived in, there’s 60 or 80 different units there,” Mellinger said. “With the COVID crisis going on, children are out of school and they are constantly coming and going back and forth. It’s just really, for lack of a better term, it’s a Pandora’s box of sexual opportunity for these types of predators.”
Additional charges are expected to be filed against both Feltes and Hypes, along with any others who could be involved, according to Mellinger.
Hypes and Feltes were both arraigned on Wednesday. Bond was set at $250,000 for Hypes and $20,000 for Feltes.
Mellinger said this is an ongoing investigation and anyone with additional information about the alleged crimes is urged to call the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at 304-373-2290.