Source: Sherman Publications

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Former guardian sentenced to 6-30 years in prison

by Susan Bromley

October 26, 2011

Duane Emery Kuerbitz, who pleaded no contest to sexually abusing the mentally incapacitated man for whom he was state-appointed guardian, was sentenced Oct. 20 to 6-and-a-half to 30 years in prison by Sixth Circuit Court Judge Rae Lee Chabot.

Kuerbitz, 50, pleaded no contest Sept. 26 to one count of criminal sexual conduct, first degree, as well as one count of being a habitual offender, fourth offense. In exchange for his plea, an additional count of CSC, first degree and one count of CSC, third degree were dismissed.

"It's a satisfactory ending for a case that has been ongoing since July 2009, and it serves the best interest of the victim," said Oakland County Sheriff's Office Detective Dale Brown. "I feel strongly this is a case that should have never happened to the victim had the system not failed him originally."

According to police reports, on July 25, 2009, Brandon Township deputies responded to Allen and Seymour Lake roads on a welfare check and upon arrival, made contact with the 31-year-old victim, who said he'd been abused by Kuerbitz since Kuerbitz became his guardian in 2007. The most recent assault occurred two days prior.

Kuerbitz and the victim had been living in a home in the 400 block of W. Seymour Lake Road since 2008. The victim described crimes committed against him by Kuerbitz that included forced sexual acts including sodomy.

On March 24, after several months of investigation by police and prosecutors, Dr. Charles Clark, a board certified forensic psychologist, conducted a mental evaluation on the victim, who was determined to be not mentally capable of consenting to sex, and has mental retardation as it is legally defined.

Kuerbitz was arrested March 31 at his residence in Bay City by the Fugitive Apprehension Team.

The Michigan Sex Offender Registry records showed that Kuerbitz had two convictions for criminal sexual conduct first degree (person under 13) from 1991 in Waterford. In an April 2010 interview with The Citizen, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper noted that two separate statutes cover appointing a guardian. In the case of minors, background checks are required, but that is not a requirement for special needs adults requiring guardianship.

Still, when Wayne County Probate Court Judge Martin T. Maher awarded guardianship of a mentally incapacitated man to Duane Kuerbitz, he was aware that Kuerbitz was a registered sex offender.

Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton said Maher has not been censured by the judicial tenure commission and the prosecutor's office has spoken to legislators, but loopholes in the guardianship statutes are not on the docket.

"The impression we've gotten is they have a lot of things they are working on and this will get on their list eventually," he said. "There are a lot of things we would like the legislature to address, and this is one of those things where we have to keep plugging away."