Blandburg man faces assault charges

A Blandburg man allegedly carried on an illicit sexual relationship with a 15-year-old Altoona girl, police said.

James D. Stephanic, 43, of 133 Oak St., Blandburg, allegedly had sex with the girl five times between August 2013 and Jan. 17, when a one-vehicle accident along Wopsy Road brought the relationship to light, according to Logan Township police.

It was about 2:30 a.m. Jan. 17, when Logan Township police were called to respond to the accident, a roll-over crash involving an SUV. As officers drove along Wopsy Road, they came across a girl walking along side the road.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, the officers stopped and talked with the girl, who said she wasn’t in the accident nor was she aware of it. She told officers she was walking to her home in Juniata, and they told her to head straight home before continuing ahead to the accident, police said.

At the scene of the accident, police found Stephanic’s overturned 2001 Kia Sportage on the road. Stephanic, who suffered minor injuries, was at the scene and told police he was alone at the time of the accident, but the Logan Township officers noticed the accident scene wasn’t far from where they had encountered the girl.

Logan Township police had Penn State Altoona police intercept the girl, and after Stephanic was taken to UPMC Altoona for treatment, police learned the girl’s name, that she was 15 years old and that she was with Stephanic in the Kia when he crashed.

At the hospital, Stephanic was asked why he lied about the girl being in his vehicle. Police said Stephanic said he got nervous and was worried he would get in trouble. Police said officers then asked why he would be worried about getting in trouble if he was only giving the girl a ride, as he claimed.

Stephanic said he hadn’t done anything wrong, but then told the officers she had asked him to buy her pot, and even gave cops directions to a house on Wopsy Road, according to police.

Officers continued to press Stephanic about his relationship with the girl, and after he admitted the two had exchanged text messages in the past, police seized his cellphone, records show. Stephanic told police there was nothing inappropriate on the phone except some “flirty” messages.

When questioned by police, including a female officer with the Penn State Altoona police, the morning of the crash, the girl told officers she and Stephanic had sex five times since August, police contend. The girl said Stephanic had sex with her right before the crash, and she was taken to UPMC Altoona where a rape kit was performed, police noted.

The girl met again with police Jan. 20 and said Stephanic would pick her up in Altoona and take her to an area commonly known as the Juniata or Strawberry Flats to have sex. The girl claimed Stephanic would text her leading up to each of the encounters and later make her delete the messages.

Police said the girl said Stephanic wrecked because a deer ran onto the road, and he swerved into an embankment and flipped the Kia. She said he told her to walk home, and if any cars came by she was to jump over the guardrail and hide in the woods, police said.

After getting a search warrant Jan. 23, police searched two cellphones belonging to the girl and uncovered a picture of what police contend is Stephanic’s penis. Stephanic faces five felony counts each of statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor, along with five counts indecent assault.

At Stephanic’s arraignment Friday morning, Magisterial District Judge Steven Jackson set bail at an unsecured $50,000. A preliminary hearing is slated for Aug. 21.