Tecklenburg pleads innocent to rape and 4 other charges
By Greg Kane
News-Sentinel Business Editor
A longtime Lodi Fire captain accused of raping his adopted 14-year-old daughter entered a not guilty plea at a Wednesday arraignment punctuated by suggestions from a prosecutor that there may be more victims in the case.
Close to 50 friends, relatives and co-workers of Lodi Fire Capt. Michael Tecklenburg gathered in Lodi court for the afternoon hearing. Handcuffed and dressed in a red jumpsuit indicating protective custody, Tecklenburg occasionally glanced toward onlookers as defense attorney S. Dean Ruiz gave the plea to Judge David P. Warner.
Warner set bail at $425,000 -- an increase of $165,000 -- and scheduled a hearing for Oct. 4 at 1:30 p.m. Prosecutor Janet Smith argued for a higher bail, saying she had information that led her to believe there might be more victims than the alleged accuser.
"There may be multiple victims in this case," Smith said, drawing muted disbelief from onlookers. "Considering that the allegation is that the defendant raped a 14-year-old girl, we are asking that bail be set (at a high level)."
Smith declined to elaborate on the statement following the arraignment.
Tecklenburg was arrested early Tuesday after the 14-year-old, who had been missing for more than two weeks, contacted her therapist late Monday. Statements from the girl and information reportedly found on the family's computer led San Joaquin County Sheriff's deputies to make the arrest.
Tecklenburg is charged with one count of rape, two counts of lewd acts on a child between ages 14-15, one count of making terrorist threats and one count of misdemeanor child molestation.
As he was led from the courtroom following the 10-minute arraignment, shouts of "We love you Mike" and "We love you daddy" resonated in the room. In addition to the 14-year-old, whose name is being withheld, Tecklenburg and his wife Lisa have three biological children and two other adopted children.
The crowd of supporters, which included nearly a dozen Lodi firefighters dressed in street clothes, declined to comment before and after the arraignment. Ruiz, from the Stockton-based law firm Hakeem, Ellis & Marengo, declined to discuss the case except to say that there wasn't enough credible information to make a case.
"We do know this: There is a lot more to this than has been reported, and we'll all know sooner or later," Ruiz said.
On Tuesday, Lisa Tecklenburg told the News-Sentinel that the accuser has a long history of compulsive lying. The girl was the focus of an extensive search in recent weeks since disappearing from the family's home in rural Clements, with the Tecklenburgs putting up fliers all over town and offering a reward of more than $10,000.
The girl was reportedly taken from an abusive home when she was 31/2 years old, and was adopted by the family at age 5. She allegedly told investigators that Tecklenburg had sexually assaulted her during the past few months.
Investigators reportedly seized the computer earlier in the week to search for chat room conversations that might lead them to the girl. Instead, graphic pre-teen pornography downloaded from both the Internet and a digital camera was allegedly discovered. It's not clear who downloaded the material.
Tecklenburg has been a firefighter for 21 years and has no previous record, according to the Sheriff's Department. The city has launched a standard administrative investigation into the allegations beginning this week, according to City Attorney Stephen Schwabauer. Tecklenburg remains on paid administrative leave from the department.
Bail will be reviewed at the Oct. 4 hearing. A date may also be set for further prosecution at that time, as will any modifications to the charges, Smith said.