REYNOLDSVILLE — A Reynoldsville man is facing multiple felony charges related to the alleged sexual assault and rape of an 11-year-old child.
Reynoldsville Borough Police filed charges against Michael Scott Zernell, 52, of Reynoldsville on June 4, including rape forcible compulsion, two counts of statutory sexual assault: 11 years older, two counts of involuntary sexual intercourse with a child, aggravated indecent assault of a child, indecent assault of a person less than 13 years old, and indecent assault without content of other.
On the day police were called to Zernell’s residence for the above charges, he allegedly led police on a 75-minute car chase before finally being apprehended on Feb. 12.
DuBois-based state police filed additional charges against Zernell including six counts of aggravated assault –attempt to cause serious bodily injury with extreme indifference, 12 counts of aggravated assault –attempts to cause bodily injury to designated individuals, six counts of aggravated assault –fear of imminent serious bodily injury, fleeing or attempting to elude officers, 18 counts of disregard for traffic lane, four counts for failing to stop at stop signs, six counts for failure to use a turn signal, three counts of damage to property by motor vehicle, and reckless driving.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, a child told her mother that Zernell allegedly tried to touch her inappropriately. When her mother confronted Zernell, he allegedly left the residence, so she called police because she worried he would hurt himself.
When the victim was interviewed, she relayed several different instances of Zernell touching her inappropriately both over and under her clothing. The victim said the different instances were “all jumbled” in her head.
Following this interview, another minor was asked if anything inappropriate had ever happened with Zernell. In a written statement, the second minor said Zernell had made inappropriate comments about the two having sex or sexual comments, even after being asked to stop.
During the chase, police allegedly located Zernell parked on a dirt road in the area of Reynlow Park. Zernell is reported to have driven off the road to evade police, leading them on the 75-minute car chase around various side and main roads surrounding Reynoldsville.
At different points in the chase, Zernell also left the road to avoid police, driving through several fields in the area.
Once Zernell turned onto the Panic/Knoxdale Road, one of the officers was able to complete a successful PIT maneuver on Zernell, sending him off the road and stopping against a tree. When asked why he wouldn’t stop, Zernell said he was “looking for a safe place to pull over,” according to the affidavit.
When interviewed about the rape allegations, Zernell denied ever touching the victim inappropriately.
Zernell also allegedly denied the allegations made by the second minor.
Zernell is currently being held in the Jefferson County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 30 with Magisterial Judge David Inzana.