A Hart man accused of raping a Ludington woman, and threatening to harm her and her children if she tried to leave or tell authorities, was bound over to Mason County Circuit Court Wednesday.
Paul Edward Bliss, 33, was bound over on four of the five criminal charges lodged against him following a preliminary examination in 79th District Court Wednesday. Judge Peter Wadel found just cause to bind Bliss over on charges of criminal sexual conduct, second or subsequent offense; unlawful imprisonment; assault to do great bodily harm less than murder; and assault with intent to commit sexual penetration.
Bliss, dressed in jail orange and handcuffed, sat emotionless with his attorney Douglas Stevenson throughout the hearing.
The 29-year-old victim struggled at times to answer the questions of Lauren Krienbrink, assistant prosecuting attorney. She spoke so softly the judge repeatedly asked her to speak louder.
The victim recounted how she had met Bliss through a website called Plenty O’ Fish in 2018. She said that they had chatted a few times before they arranged to meet at Stearns Park beach on Aug. 18, 2018. She said they walked back to her apartment at Pineway and she invited him in. The victim said that Bliss started taking his clothes off in the bedroom, and she explained to him that she was not looking for that kind of a relationship and just wanted to be friends.
She then recalled how she had called a taxi for him, but that he didn’t want to leave when it arrived. She said it was at that time, after the taxi left, and they were back inside that he threw her onto the mattress and began to take her clothes off as well as his. She then recalled how she had tried to fight him off but could not and he raped her.
The victim said this behavior was repeated over a three-day period. During that time, Bliss threatened to harm not only her but her young children as well if she attempted to leave or tell the authorities. The woman said that he did leave after spending the night two different times and had come back, even after she told him she did not want him there.
She added that he did have his hands on her throat on more than one occasion and had pinned her down. She told the court she didn’t contact authorities at the time because she was afraid to.
Aaron Sailor, an investigator for child protective services and a former Ludington City Police officer, was the only other witness called to the stand Wednesday.
While still a police officer, he said he was contacted Sept. 10, 2018 by Detective Tom Posma of the Mason County Sheriff’s office, who had been contacted by the FBI’s National Human Trafficking Hotline and had been given the victim’s contact information.
Sailor said that the victim was reluctant to speak to him at first, but did call him back after a short period of time. When asked by the prosecution if the victim’s testimony given in court Wednesday was the same as what he had been told, Sailor said it was.
Sailor testified that he had spoken to Bliss on Sept. 10, 2018 at the Oceana County Jail about the incidents. Sailor said that Bliss told him that he had “messed around” with the victim a couple of times but that the acts were consensual.
After a brief recess, Wadel issued his ruling, binding Bliss over on four of the charges, saying that he felt satisified that enough evidence had been presented on those counts. He said on the second count of using a computer to commit a crime he did not feel it was proven to his satisfaction.
Wadel said he didn’t feel it was a violation of the law to assume a false identity when setting up an account on a website, even though Krienbrink had argued that it was in this case.
“People set up accounts with aliases all the time,” Wadel said. “I think most do it with the intent of protecting themselves and their identity.”
Bliss was remanded to the Mason County Jail in lieu of posting $25,000 cash bond.
Online public records show that this is not Bliss’ first brush with the law. Records from Wayne County show that in 2009 he had two separate court files. One file charged him with criminal sexual conduct, first degree and CSC, third degree. The second file shows he was charged with domestic violence, malicious destruction of personal property and two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.
He was found guilty of criminal sexual conduct, third degree, and is on the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry. He was sentenced in January 2010 to 30 to 180 months of prison with credit for 264 days served and ordered to pay $1,178 in fines and costs.
He pled guilty to a count of assault with a dangerous weapon/felonious assault. He was sentenced in January 2010 to 5 to 48 months of prison with credit for 258 days served and ordered to pay $5,228 in fines and costs including $4,000 in restitution.