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Authorities Working to Put Admitted Sexual Abuser Back Into Custody

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Authorities and the Newton family of a child sexually abused by Shawn Cooper are asking why Cooper was allowed to be released from custody.

Cooper admitted to sexually abusing a minor 16 times, but was then deemed intellectually incompetent to stand trial. A criminal complaint from 2017 states Cooper, a Newton resident, admitted to performing the acts on a minor in his home.

A statement from the Jasper County Attorney says Cooper suffers from a mental disorder.

“In this case, I understand there was a ruling that due to this gentleman’s mental condition, he was found to be incompetent to stand trial,” said Pat Houlihan of Drake Legal Clinic.

Houlihan, also a former Polk County prosecutor, said by law they were forced to drop the charges. However, authorities are still working the case, and the Jasper County Attorney and the State Attorney General are trying to find a way to put Cooper back in custody.

To do that, they'd have to file a 229A.

“It’s a mechanism that allows them to, in essence, keep someone in prison who is deemed to be a sexually violent predator. Or there might be some instances under that chapter that allows them to confine someone who isn’t in prison at the time," Houlihan said.

But even the Jasper County Attorney said that's a long shot, and Houlihan backs up that belief.

“Using Chapter 229A to, in essence, lock someone up who hasn’t been found guilty of a crime I don't believe is real common," Houlihan said.

Liz Cox with Prevent Child Abuse Iowa said despite being deemed mentally incompetent, Cooper needs to be held accountable for his actions and taken off the streets.

“The perpetrators are the ones that need to be held accountable. We as a community all share in the responsibility of preventing abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse," Cox said.

The goal is to prevent a man who admitted to sexually abusing a child from slipping through the cracks.