Suspect in Chesterton church rapes jailed

 The Liberty Township man charged with the rape and sexual battery of three mentally disabled women at a Chesterton church is being held in the Porter County Jail.

Thomas Cooperider, 23, of the 800 block of Mirmar Drive in Valparaiso, is scheduled for an initial hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday, where Porter Superior Judge Roger Bradford will set bail and subsequent court dates.

Cooperider is charged with two Level 3 felony rape charges and three Level 6 felony sexual battery charges.

Each Level 3 felony carries a sentence of up to 16 years in prison, and each Level 6 felony carries a sentence of up to two years and six months in prison.

According to Porter County Jail records, Indiana State Police brought him to Porter County Jail Monday afternoon.

The alleged incidents happened between November 2014 and April 2015 after Bible study classes at Liberty Bible Church, 824 N. Calumet Ave. in Chesterton.

According to the probable cause affidvit, one of the women told a Bible study leader on April 4 about inappropriate contact between her and Cooperider without her permission.

Liberty Bible Church’s Safety Team Coordinator James Reeder, who’s an Ogden Dunes Police officer, contacted Porter County Sheriff’s Police on May 1 after investigating the incidents, documents said.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by Porter County Sheriff’s Detective Brian Dziedzinski, all three women claim that Cooperider would guide them to secluded areas of the church basement for the sexual encounters.

The church provided security videos to police on May 15, and those show Cooperider walking to and from out-of-the-way areas of the church with the women between Jan. 20 and March 3, according to Dziedzinski’s affidavit.

Liberty Bible Church banned Cooperider from church property and church events May 4.

The Porter County Prosecutor’s office filed charges against Cooperider on July 15.

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