Dowagiac man gets prison time for sexually assaulting caregiver

Published 4:06 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

CASSOPOLIS — A Dowagiac man who sexually assaulted his caregiver was sentenced to prison Friday in Cass County Circuit Court.

Robert Joseph Schmeltz, 58, of Spruce Street in Dowagiac, was found guilty by a jury in November of third degree criminal sexual conduct as a habitual offender and was sentenced to 30 months to 22 and a half years in prison.

He must register as a sex offender and be subject to lifetime electronic monitoring. He has credit for 121 days served and must pay $1,048 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred Aug. 26, 2022 in Dowagiac when he sexually assaulted the 65 year old home healthcare worker who had come to his house to assist him. According to testimony at trial, he became physically aggressive and held her down while assaulting her. She was able to escape, went to the hospital and contacted police.

The victim spoke before sentencing. “I love helping and caring for clients, I thought I was there to help him with his daily activities,” she said. “I thought we had a professional relationship with him as his caregiver. He took advantage of me and hurt me physically and mentally.”

“I’m not the same person, I have had to heal from something that never should have happened,” she added. “What he did was wrong. I will continue to heal from all of this.”

Cass County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mary Foster noted that the evidence presented at trial showed that the victim had been assaulted by Schmeltz. “At 65 years old, she has to deal with the trauma of being raped,” she said. “She has had to go to counseling and deal with what he did to her.”

Defense attorney Robert Kardatzke said his client had a limited criminal record and still maintains his innocence. He said Schmeltz intends to file an appeal.

“At the time of the trial, you said the incident was consensual and you said she reported the incident so her job wouldn’t be jeopardized,” Cass County Circuit Judge Mark Herman said. “Society takes a dim view of this kind of behavior. There is no reason to deviate below the guidelines. There is no place in a civilized society for this behavior.”