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March 10, 2013
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Publishers Notebook: Beware of the monsters who might be in disguise

Banning all of the guns in the world won’t keep the world safe from the likes of Mark Vanderhoof and other monsters like him.

Mr. Vanderhoof has spent this past week in a Roseburg courtroom, trying to convince a judge that he didn’t kill a 2-year-old little boy. It was an accident, he said.

According to testimony this week before Judge Ronald Poole (Vanderhoof opted against a jury trial, so the judge will determine his fate), Vanderhoof has changed his story of the events leading up to the death of 2-year-old Dennis Young at least a couple of times.

According to the murder indictment, Vanderhoof was watching the 2-year-old son of his girlfriend on Jan. 25, 2011, when he called the boy’s mother to tell him the toddler had fallen 2 to 3 feet off the front porch of the Lookingglass home the couple shared. When the mother got home her son was unconscious and she called 911. The boy would die five hours later from injuries Vanderhoof said were caused by the fall.

He would later admit to Portland police detectives that he pushed the little boy and that he might have been a little too rough. He told detectives he was just trying to keep the boy from messing with the family pit bull. There’s nothing like a good punch to keep a 2-year-old away from the dog.

This is a great place to pause — something the boy’s mother maybe should have done before dating Mr. Vanderhoof. In fact, it might have been a good idea for the boy’s mother to call a woman named Sherie Brint, who probably could have told the mother a few things about the man she was about to allow around her little boy.

Sherie Brint hadn’t heard from her former boyfriend since he was sent to prison for raping her 4-year-old daughter almost 25 years ago. The same boyfriend who spent this week in a Roseburg courtroom trying to convince a judge that the 2-year-old little boy he was responsible for fell down and died.

In a television interview two years ago — right after Vanderhoof was charged with killing little Dennis Young — Brint recalled her horror upon learning her little girl had been raped by a man she trusted.

“When I came home I saw that she (little girl) had a fat lip,” Brint said in a KEZI interview. “I asked her what happened and she put a hand over my mouth and said, ‘Sshhh, I can’t tell you.’ ”

Brint then discovered strangle marks on her daughter’s neck and bruising from where Vanderhoof held her down. She rushed her daughter to the hospital when she learned the horrible truth about her boyfriend.

She would later learn that Vanderhoof had previously been charged with crimes against other children. An example of that came in testimony Friday morning, when another former girlfriend told the court that in 1985 Vanderhoof beat her 4-year-old daughter and then forced them both into a room at gunpoint because the little girl wouldn’t eat her peas.

The pain of not being able to protect her little girl from Vanderhoof will stay with Brint the rest of her life, she said. “He fooled us all,” she told the reporter. “I met his parents, his brothers, friends. We had friends we socialized with. No one ever said anything.”

In 1988, Vanderhoof was sentenced to 20 years in prison for raping the 4-year-old girl. He would be released just nine years later for “good behavior.” In 1993, Vanderhoof wrote a letter from Santiam Correctional Institution in Salem, a 400-bed minimum-security prison, to then Douglas County Judge Joan G. Seitz, saying he was a new man. “I have spent my time here on self improvement,” he wrote. “The apprenticeship program and automotive repair shop will help me support my family. I would like to start my own business and have some jobs waiting for me already.”

The little girl he raped was around 9 years old by then and probably still trying to understand why the grown man she trusted would do what Vanderhoof did to her. Vanderhoof sentenced her to a lifetime of emotional and physical scars, with no chance for parole.

Victims are typically forgotten while the system tries to rehabilitate monsters, a process that rarely works because most monsters will always be monsters and therefore … excuse my political incorrectness … belong in cages. In his letter to the judge, Vanderhoof wrote that, “The world is not fair” and that, “justice is often impossible.” There was no evidence of remorse, nor sorrow for the pain he caused a little girl or her family.

He was right about one thing, though. The world isn’t fair. If it was, Vanderhoof would still be in prison and perhaps a 2-year-old little boy would still be alive.

All three cases should serve as reminders to single parents entering new relationships. The person you are bringing home to your children may not be who you think he is. A little digging may reveal a monster in disguise.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or jackerman@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Mar 10, 2013 12:04AM Published Mar 10, 2013 12:04AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.