Police mug shot: Robert Lyzenga
Updated: Thursday, 14 Mar 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 14 Mar 2013, 1:53 PM EDT
TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - A Tippecanoe County pastor who was arrested last year under suspicions that he had planted cameras in his church’s ladies’ room has been charged going on 1 year later with child exploitation and voyeurism.
Fifty-six-year-old Robert A. Lyzenga, a former pastor at Sunrise Christian Reformed Church in Lafayette, was charged Thursday with five counts of child exploitation and five counts of voyeurism. That’s 10 felony charges.
According to court documents, on April 22, 2012, a Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office deputy was dispatched to the church (located on County Road 500 South) on a complaint of a camera being found in a women’s bathroom.
The deputy met with a church council member, who gave him two cameras, which the member had received from one of the female members of the church.
The woman who found the cameras told the deputy she had been in the restroom when she noticed an air freshener had fallen to the floor off the door of a stall. Inside the air freshener, she said she found a camera. The woman said she looked in the next two stalls, where there were two more air fresheners on the back of the doors. One more camera was found in one of the stalls.
Court documents say those air fresheners were not real, but were just plastic boxes modified to hold cameras.
A detective downloaded and reviewed the data on the memory cards from the cameras found in the bathroom. Investigators determined the cameras had been continuously recording from the “air fresheners” with a view of the toilet seats within the stalls.
Investigators discovered upon re-visiting the church that images of an office from the beginning of one of the videos could be identified as Lyzenga’s office.
“The beginning of the video showed the desk in Lyzenga’s office and it appeared the camera was taken from that office before being placed in the women’s restroom stall,” court documents state.
Officials say the cameras were digital, so any recordings could be transferred onto a computer, and from a computer to DVDs, CDs, tablets, smart phones or other digital devices. Court documents say this would essentially permit the cameras to record until the memory cards were full, and then the video could be downloaded, freeing up more space on the cameras and memory cards.
Search warrants were executed May 10, 2012, for Lyzenga’s church office and his home. During those searches, investigators found a laptop computer in his home that revealed several videos of a woman taken in the church’s restroom.
In another area of Lyzenga’s home, investigators also found another laptop, three external hard drives and seven flash drives. At least one external hard drive was found to have numerous videos and still photos of juvenile and adult females taken in the church’s restroom.
During an interview Lyzenga admitted to investigators that he had a problem with pornography several years ago, and that he looked for videos on voyeuristic websites of unclothed women.
In the interview, court documents show he did not initially admit to anything in regard to the hidden cameras in the church, but suggested others had access to his office.
At one point in the questioning Lyzenga admitted he lied, and then admitted to putting the cameras in the restroom. He said he made the plastic boxes to hold the cameras, and installed them in the stalls, getting the cameras later on to view the videos on his laptop.
Lyzenga told investigators part of the excitement was getting away with doing all of this. He claimed he would just watch the videos on his laptop and then delete them, and none of the videos would be found anywhere else.
However, investigators said from examinations of the laptop and hard drive, Lyzenga did not delete all the videos as he claimed. Some were even altered or edited, and there were also still photos taken from videos.
Investigators said several videos had young females recorded using the restroom, showing their private parts at times. Parents of the girls on video were called in to identify their children, and ages of the girls were determined by dates on the video, many of which dated back for at least a year.
One of the girls was just 5 years old when she was recorded by the cameras in December of 2011. Other girls’ ages included 7, 9, 12 and 16 years old.
Adult females identified in the videos were also brought in to confirm it was them in the videos and still photos.
Investigators noted in court documents that each woman said she did not know about the cameras, or that she was being videotaped while in the restroom.
In all, Lyzenga faces 10 felony charges. The five child exploitation charges are class C felonies. The five voyeurism charges are class D felonies.
Our original story broke in May 2012 after Lyzenga was first arrested. You can also read up on this case in the stories listed as related headlines to the left of this article.