Dad stands by son’s side after accusation of rape

The father of a teen accused of raping a woman in Tyrone said the girl’s appearance and behavior following the alleged attack doesn’t fit her story.

Bob Mertsch 48, of Export said Friday the 19-year-old woman who accused his son, Robert V. Mertsch, 18, of a sexual assault March 30 in the woods off a path in Reservoir Park in Tyrone had accompanied him to the Tyrone area to visit the teenager, who had a four-hour pass from Pine Ridge Manor, a Pyramid Healthcare halfway house in Bald Eagle.

Bob Mertsch also drove the woman, who had been dating his son for a few months, back to Export, but Mertsch said it wasn’t until his son called him on Monday to say he was being arrested on rape charges that he had any inkling anything about the trip was out of the ordinary.

During their visit, the elder Mertsch, his son and the woman visited the State College area, and because there was still some time before the teen had to be back at the halfway house, where he was placed after violating his probation for possessing alcohol at school, the three drove to Tyrone.

“[Reservoir Park] was packed with people,” Bob Mertsch said, noting there was a community Easter egg hunt that day. While his son and the woman took a walk, Bob Mertsch watched the kids preparing for the start of the egg hunt around 4 p.m.

According to police, it was on the walk that Robert V. Mertsch violently sexually assaulted the woman. She later told police her boyfriend threw her to the ground where she struck her head. She told investigators that the teen threatened her after she repeatedly told him no and screamed for him to stop.

Bob Mertsch said when the two returned after the walk, one that lasted about 15 minutes, the woman did not look like someone who had just been attacked.

“She didn’t seem in distress or disheveled or anything,” Mertsch said. “Her clothes weren’t disheveled or dirty.”

After dropping his son off at Pine Ridge Manor, Bob Mertsch drove the woman back to Export, he said. The two even made a pit stop at a Blairsville Sheetz store, and the woman joked with him and spent time texting on her phone during the ride.

“It was normal,” he said. “I thought everything was hunky dory until he called Monday night and said he was being arrested.”

Bob Mertsch said he hopes the full truth emerges, no matter what it is, and would like to find out the results of the rape kit that was processed after his son’s accuser visited a Westmoreland hospital.

“My son’s no angel,” Bob Mertsch said, adding that despite his problems, he doesn’t believe he’s a rapist. He said his son has a history of psychological issues, but he doesn’t believe he would do that to a woman, especially in a park full of people.

“There was so many people there, they had to see something,” Mertsch said.

While the family has hired a private attorney, his son will have to remain in Blair County Prison for now because of the $25,000 cash bail, Bob Mertsch said.

Robert V. Mertsch is due to appear before Magisterial District Judge Fred Miller on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing on rape-related charges, and his father said he’ll be making the drive to Tyrone to support his son.

“I’m hoping someone saw something,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.