The trial for Michael Terpening begins October 22, 2012. Terpening, 32, is the former owner of Earth Services in Bellevue, Michigan. The trial in Barry County is expected to last for at least two weeks.
Earth Services started as E.A.R. (Educated Animal Rescue) in 1998 and later became E.A.R.T.H. (Educated Animal Rescue and Teen Haven) Services in 2010. Earth Services was combination of two different businesses: an animal rescue and a rehabilitation program for older teen males who were displaced. The rehabilitation facility was known as The House Next Door, which was located on the property of Earth Services, next door to Terpening’s private residence. The House Next Door employed staff to provide 24-hour care for the residents.
Terpening also fostered children in his home. Five of his eight children are biological siblings who were adopted through the State of Michigan after the biological parents relinquished their legal rights to them.
The purpose of Earth Services was to foster the teenagers and assign them an animal from the rescue to care for. Terpening requested teenage males for placement at the facility. Some of the boys were troubled, and others were ordered to go to The House Next Door by the courts. Terpening’s request included, ‘The harder to place, the better.’
The investigation began in May 2011, when a resident of the facility came forward and alleged that Terpening had sexually assaulted him. Later, two victims made similar allegations. Terpening was charged in August 2011 with multiple counts of 3rd and 4th degree CSC. Terpening was charged and released on a $300,000 bond.
Other allegations have been made in this case from residents of K-PEP, a probation residential center that is funded by the State of Michigan through the Community of Corrections. Some K-PEP residents completed their community service hours at Earth Services. Two staff members from the House Next Door also complained about Terpening’s sexual behavior and are expected to testify in this case, as well as the former K-Pep residents.
Since being charged, a victim from over 12 years ago, came forward and alleged he was raped by Terpening while he was in the foster care home of Terpening’s relatives. The allegations resulted in a new set of charges against Terpening, which include 1st degree CSC. Terpening’s bond was set at $300,000. He posted bond and was released from jail again. Terpening is expected to go to trial on these charges at a later date.
In March 2012, a call to investigators from a former supporter of Terpening’s revealed that he was violating his bond conditions. Terpening was arrested for bond violations after attending a St. Patrick’s Day party where a victim from the first case was also present with the former supporter. He was also found to have moved and was living at an address that was not registered with the courts. Terpening’s bond was raised to $750,000. He posted bond and was released from jail on electronic tether.
Terpening is also scheduled for a third trial for unrelated charges insurance fraud for allowing a youth in The House Next Door to operate a company vehicle. The youth was involved in a car accident and called Jamie Moore Bell, Terpening’s aunt and employee at The House Next Door, instead of calling the police. Moore-Bell rushed to the accident scene and allegedly lied to police by saying she was operating the vehicle when the accident happened, so the insurance company would cover the vehicle damages. Moore-Bell has also been charged with insurance fraud and will be in trial with Terpening later this year on those charges.
This is not the first time Terpening has been brought up on sexual misconduct charges. In 2003, similar charges were brought against him; however, the victim in the case dropped all charges on him after Terpening allegedly promised to give him a truck in exchange for dropping the charges. According to transcripts in that case, Terpening never delivered the truck to the victim.
Terpening has refused plea deals offered to him, claiming that he is innocent of all the charges. He claims that he is a victim of government corruption over Title IV-D funding money he received on the foster children.