LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — A Lansing-area man was arrested Tuesday for the sexual abuse of a teen, with authorities saying he used his role as a well-known and trusted youth sports referee to prey on young athletes.
Gerald Allen Sutter, 70, was charged with three counts of criminal sexual conduct involving a minor. Authorities say the abuse happened between 2019 and 2021.
Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth said in a Wednesday news conference that his department launched an investigation after getting a tip about Sutter. Detectives investigated and ultimately arrested him and searched his home in Lansing Township, just west of the city.
The charges involve the same teen but the sheriff’s office said it has made preliminary contact with other potential victims and that there could be even more.
“…This case could span several decades,” he said.
Sutter has been a referee in multiple sports, but mostly baseball and softball, for some 50 years. He officiated both both boys and girls sports for early childhood through college. He traveled all over the state refereeing but worked primarily in mid-Michigan.
“Anyone that has played or has children who have played sports in this area likely has had games officiated by Sutter,” Wriggelsworth said.
Sutter befriended young male victims and showered them with gifts and attention to start building a relationship, all with the intent of potentially grooming them for “nefarious acts,” the sheriff said.
“Absolutely horrible conduct on his part,” Wriggelsworth said.
The Ingham County Sheriff’s Office has established a tip line for information specifically about Sutter. It asked any victims or people with pertinent information to call 517.676.8440.