APD: Man sexually assaulted girl, 9, at homeless shelter

A Huntingdon County man is behind bars on charges he sexually assaulted a young girl at an Altoona homeless shelter.

Mermoth Charles Dunkle Jr., 19, of Huntingdon allegedly assaulted the 9-year-old girl about 6 p.m. Thursday in the laundry area of Family Services Inc.’s Family Shelter, a homeless shelter located at 2700 Eighth Ave.

The alleged sexual assault came to light when the girl’s mother asked the child shortly before 8 p.m. to go to the basement laundry room to retrieve some clothes. The girl told her mother she

“didn’t want to if Junior was going to be there,” according to Altoona police Lt. Jeffrey Pratt.

Pratt said the girl told her mother that Dunkle had forced her to perform oral sex when the mother asked the girl why she didn’t want to go to the laundry room.

The mother notified staff at the shelter, and the staff immediately called police, Pratt said.

Dunkle, police said, has no relationship with the girl or her mother.

Surveillance footage confirmed Dunkle had contact with the girl, but police said the alleged crime was not caught on video. When questioned, Dunkle allegedly confessed and gave police a statement that matched exactly what the girl told investigators, according to police.

Police said the staff of Family Services was extremely helpful in their investigation and acted immediately when they learned of the the threat.

“Obviously, safety is our first priority,” said Rhonda Smith, operations director for Family Services Inc.

Smith noted background checks are performed on all adults coming into the shelter, Dunkle included. Anyone with felonies or even allegations of sexual assault would not be permitted in the shelter, she said.

Police said Dunkle has no criminal history, and Smith said there was nothing indicating Dunkle, who was scheduled to move out of the shelter Friday and into an apartment, was a threat.

Smith said once the allegations came to light, the staff handled everything according to protocol, and the organization will continue to work with police to provide whatever is needed, including copies of the video surveillance footage from Thursday night.

Family Services will also be helping the girl and her mother.

“We will work with the family and provide whatever counseling and support they may need,” Smith said.

Dunkle was taken to Central Booking at 4 a.m. for arraignment on felony involuntary deviate sexual intercourse of a person younger than 16 years old, aggravated indecent assault of a child, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault and corruption minors, along with a misdemeanor charged of indecent assault of a person under the age of 13.

Bail was set by Magisterial District Judge Steven Jackson at $50,000 cash, and Dunkle was committed to Blair County Prison following his arraignment Friday morning. A preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Todd Kelly is slated for Wednesday at Central Court.