Local Man Accused of Rape Due in Court on Tuesday

REYNOLDSVILLE BOROUGH, Pa. (EYT) – A Reynoldsville man is facing a hearing on Tuesday on criminal charges for the alleged rape and sexual assault of two juvenile victims, as well as charges related to a police pursuit after being confronted with the allegations.

Court documents indicate 52-year-old Michael S. Zernell is scheduled to stand for a preliminary hearing in front of Magisterial District Judge David B. Inzana at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30, on charges from two criminal cases.

Rape Allegations

According to a criminal complaint, Michael Zernell attempted to engage in sexual intercourse with a known 13-year-old victim and touched the victim in inappropriate ways, including on her chest and genitals.

The victim reported she was 10 or 11 years old when the incidents began.

The complaint states a second juvenile victim reported Zernell also “sexually hit on” her and touched her in inappropriate ways, including on her buttocks. She also reported the incidents began when she was approximately 10 years old and noted that Zernell implied she “owed” him.

According to the complaint, Zernell denied the first victim’s allegations, but did admit to touching the second victim’s buttocks, and talked about “jokingly slapping each other’s butts.”

The following charges were filed against Zernell on June 4:

– Rape Forcible Compulsion, Felony 1
– Statutory Sexual Assault: 11 Years Older, Felony 1 (two counts)
– Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse With Child, Felony 1 (two counts)
– Aggravated Indecent Assault of Child, Felony 1
– Indecent Assault Person Less than 13 Years of Age, Misdemeanor 1
– Indecent Assault-Without Consent Of Other, Misdemeanor 2

Police Pursuit

According to a criminal complaint, on February 12, police responded to the area of Hill Street after receiving a report that Michael Zernell had left his residence in an unknown direction after a known relative had confronted him regarding allegations of sexual assault. The relative reported she was concerned for his safety because he stated, “I cannot live with this,” as he left the residence.

DuBois-based State Police responded and began searching for Zernell. Troopers then located a vehicle matching the description of Zernell’s vehicle at the end of a road, parked facing the troopers as they approached. The driver, later identified as Zernell, was sitting behind the wheel.

According to the complaint, Cpl. Butler, who discovered the vehicle, then contacted the other units and awaited the arrival of backup. During this time, Zernell started moving the pickup toward Cpl. Butler’s vehicle.

Trooper Butler was then forced to move his vehicle into a nearby clearing to avoid being struck by Zernell’s vehicle. A second PSP vehicle then arrived at the scene, and Zernell went off the road and around the second vehicle. He also traveled off-road to avoid additional police units, and a pursuit ensued.

The complaint notes that during the pursuit, Zernell crossed the center lines with his driver’s side tires.

The troopers attempted a rolling roadblock, and Zernell traveled into the opposing lane of traffic in an attempt to get around the block several times, then traveled off-road into a field and over a hill, where police lost sight of him.

According to the complaint, the troopers were then informed by On-Star that they had the ability to shut down the engine of the vehicle and disable it, if necessary. With the help of On-Star, Zernell was then located on Daffodil Road. The pursuit continued until marked police vehicles from the Punxsutawney-based State Police were behind Zernell, then On-Star was asked to disable the vehicle. However, the attempt to disable the vehicle was unsuccessful due to poor cellular reception in the area.

During the continued pursuit, Zernell reportedly used his pickup truck in an attempt to strike one of the state police vehicles and force it off the road, the complaint states.

The pursuit was finally brought to an end with a pursuit intervention technique (PIT) maneuver, which caused Zernell to travel off the road, over a mailbox, through a barbed-wire fence, and into a wooded area, coming to a final stop against a tree, the complaint notes.

Zernell was arraigned in front of Magisterial District Judge David B. Inzana at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, June 4, on the following charges:

– Aggravated Assault – Attempts to cause Serious Bodily Injury or causes injury with extreme indifference, Felony 1 (six counts)
– Aggravated Assault – Attempts to cause or causes Serious Bodily Injury to designated individuals, Felony 1 (six counts)
– Aggravated Assault – Attempts to cause or causes Serious Bodily Injury to designated individuals, Felony 2 (six counts)
– Aggravated Assault – Fear of Imminent Serious Bodily Injury designated individuals, Felony 2 (six counts)
– Fleeing or Attempting to Elude Officer, Misdemeanor 2
– Disregard Traffic Lane (Single), Summary (18 counts)
– Duties At Stop Sign, Summary (four counts)
– Turning Movements And Required Signals, Summary (six counts)
– Damage Real Property By Operating Motor Vehicle, Summary (three counts)
– Reckless Driving, Summary

Zernell remains lodged in the Jefferson County Jail on $100,000.00 monetary bail on each of the two cases.

EDITOR’S NOTE 1: Extreme graphic details were not included due to the sexual nature of the alleged crimes.

EDITOR’S NOTE 2: Several details were removed from this article to help protect the identity of the victims.

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