CLEARFIELD – A Clearfield man facing six felony counts of endangering the welfare of children pleaded guilty to lesser charges Tuesday.
Zachary Allen Hess, 36, was accused of molesting a 13-year-old girl, allowing her and a six-year-old to drive and leaving the six-year-old alone with a knife to protect their home.
Hess was also charged with six misdemeanor counts of corruption of minors, two counts each of indecent assault and indecent assault person less than 16 years of age.
During sentencing court on Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of corruption of minors and was sentenced by Judge Paul E. Cherry to nine months to three years in state prison, according to a court employee.
This case starts when Lawrence Township police were called to a Daisy Street residence for a domestic disturbance in progress on Feb. 8, 2022.
The caller was a 13-year-old girl who was concerned about Hess fighting with his girlfriend.
According to the affidavit, when police arrived, Hess attempted to show them videos on his phone, which he claimed had been hacked and his girlfriend was acting erratically and appeared to be under the influence of something while she was holding a five-month-old baby in her arms.
After the caller was transported to the police department for her safety, she told officials that she had been molested and witnessed drug activity while staying with the couple.
She explained that two days earlier the couple had taken her to a “meth house” with the children staying in the vehicle while they went inside.
When they got home, they began arguing about the female’s behavior at the “meth house” where she had barged in and Hess noted she could have been killed for that.
They also were physically fighting over what the caller thought was methamphetamine.
In a later interview at the Clearfield County Children’s Advocacy Center, the victim “described multiple incidents where she was made to feel uncomfortable or exposed to illegal activities.”
She also reported that Hess had kissed her on the lips for the first time a month earlier while he was comforting her. As she hugged him, she said he put his hands down his pants.
After the fight between Hess and the girlfriend on Feb. 6, 2022, she told the interviewer that again Hess “comforted her” in an upstairs bedroom.
As they were lying down, she was hugging him, which she said was “normal behavior for them.” When they got up, he kissed her on the lips. He then touched her chest/breast area.
The two went downstairs and while she was hugging his girlfriend, Hess reportedly touched her rear end.
When asked if he ever put his hand down her pants, the victim stated that he did earlier that same day.
She stated that Hess treated her like she was another girlfriend and she felt she had started to “like” him and he “liked” her.
The victim also recalled incidents when Hess let her sit on his lap and steer his car. In the vehicle with them at the time, were a six-year-old boy and the five-month-old infant.
At another time, the six-year-old was allowed to “drive” in the same way, he told investigators.
He also recalled a time that Hess gave him a small knife when he was left home alone. He said he was “being the man of the house” because Hess had been afraid someone would break into the house while they were gone.