Police Investigate Allegations Involving Minor at Trumbull Theater

NILES, Ohio – Police are investigating a report of inappropriate sexual behavior by a 34-year-old male with a 14-year-old female that began when both were in the cast of a play at Trumbull New Theatre.

The alleged incidents occurred earlier this year, said Melanie Lucas, director of the play. The male has since been barred from TNT productions, she said.

Police reports were filed in both Niles and Champion, but an arrest has not yet been made.

An incident report filed Oct. 24 with the Niles Police Department by the mother of the child actor alleges two offenses: gross sexual imposition, a felony; and contributing to the unruliness or delinquency of a child, a misdemeanor.

The Champion incident report alleges pandering obscenity involving a minor, a felony.

Champion police Chief Larry Skaggs said a search warrant is pending with the Trumbull County prosecutor’s office for cellphone and online messages made by the suspect.

“There was an allegation made, and we are trying to substantiate a crime,” he said, adding the suspect has hired a lawyer and will not talk to police.

Niles police have a similar search warrant request pending, Skaggs said.

Brett Bunker, president of the theater’s board of directors, had no comment, saying the case is under investigation.

Lucas, who is a past president of the theater board, said many parents and members of the theater community are displeased with the board’s perceived lack of proper action when the accusation was first made. She and a group of theater community members attended the last meeting of the board and called for Bunker to resign.

“I also sent an email letter out to all parents telling them their children are safe here, and I support them in their outrage,” she said.

Lucas said the theater has a code of behavior designed to prevent such incidents. Actors must agree to the code before they can be cast in a play.

The theater’s rules also mandate the presence of an adult chaperone backstage in productions that have child actors.

The code was put in place in 2020 after similar allegations were made involving a then-underage female actor at The Youngstown Playhouse.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.