GALIEN, Mich. – Imagine allowing a good friend to stay at your home for several years, then finding a camera hidden in the bathroom your children use. Police say it happened to a Galien family.
Investigators say 35-year-old Joseph Shoemaker was trying to capture inappropriate images and conversations, possibly of the three young boys living in the home, and he’s now facing felony charges because of it.
Shoemaker was good friends with the man and woman who allowed him to stay in their Galien home for the past 4 or 5 years, but police say he took advantage of that friendship.
“Obviously, the location where those were put, it's a very private place, so it is an invasion of someone's privacy and it is very serious,” said Berrien County Undersheriff Chuck Heit.
Berrien County Prosecutor Art Cotter told WSBT one of the couple’s young sons discovered an audio recording device in the husband and wife’s bedroom last week.
The man who’d been giving Shoemaker a place to stay told WSBT his wife on Sunday found a camera hidden between two bottles of shampoo in the bathroom their three sons use. He said after Shoemaker left for work, they called police.
After collecting evidence from the home, investigators questioned and arrested Shoemaker at Four Winds Casino where tribal police say he worked as kitchen staff.
At this point, no one will say whether Shoemaker captured images of the 10-, 12- and 14-year-old boys living in the home on video. WSBT chose not to report the family’s name or address in the event that the boys are, in fact, victims of a sex crime.
Shoemaker pleaded not guilty Tuesday to felony eavesdropping and capturing an image of an unclothed person charges. A judge set his bond at $750 cash and decided that if Shoemaker bonds out, he’ll have to wear an electronic monitoring device. His next court date is scheduled for Friday.
Investigators are still trying to figure out how long the camera had been there and what all it may have recorded.
“It was an MP3 so if it was deleted before, how much it got before that is still part of the investigation,” Heit said.
Cotter said there is a clear image of Shoemaker apparently setting up the camera in the bathroom and walking away from it, which is why police are confident he set it up.
Cotter added that Shoemaker does not have “anything significant” on his criminal record in Berrien County.