BILLINGS - A man recently charged with raping a 23-month-old has also admitted to police that he sexually assaulted a 6-year-old girl last year, according to prosecutors.
Police investigated Daniel Joseph Degele, 26, in June 2013 after a 6-year-old girl reported he had touched her in appropriately, according to charging documents filed on Monday.
However, samples collected in a sexual assault examination did not turn up DNA evidence implicating Degele or any other male, the documents continue, and he denied doing anything inappropriate.
But on Dec. 3, Degele admitted to investigators that he touched the girl under her underwear. That day, police detectives interviewed him after arresting him in connection to the Nov. 30 rape of a 23-month-old girl.
Records say he also admitted raping that child — who was flown from Billings Clinic to Denver Children’s Hospital for surgery to repair serious internal injuries.
Her condition was not immediately available Tuesday morning after Degele’s arraignment in Yellowstone County District Court.
He appeared in court by video from jail on two counts of felony sexual intercourse without consent accusing him of raping the 23-month-old and a new charge of felony sexual assault alleging he molested the 6-year-old.
The only thing Degele could be heard saying in the hearing was “not guilty” when asked how he pleaded to each charge.
Assistant Public Defender Moira D’Alton made a courtesy appearance with Degele and said that for the time being he is not contesting the $250,000 bond set in Yellowstone County Justice Court on Dec. 4.
District Judge Russell C. Fagg maintained that bond amount. He also followed a request from Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Ingrid Rosenquist and ordered Degele to wear a GPS monitor and keep at least 500 feet away from victims or their families if bail is posted.
Degele was immediately escorted out of the jail’s video arraignment room following the hearing, which lasted less than three minutes.
Degele’s trial date is yet to be scheduled. As long as he qualifies financially, he will also be assigned a court-appointed attorney, which he asked for in a Dec. 4 hearing.
Police arrested Degele on Dec. 3 after searching a home on the 2900 block of Third Avenue South. Three days earlier, officers had been called to Billings Clinic, where the 23-year-old victim had been brought with injuries that police said “appeared life-threatening.”
“He was left alone with the victim and her two brothers for a total of about five minutes. During that time, the defendant raped (the girl) … causing severe lacerations and massive bleeding,” Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Paul W. Adam at Degele’s initial appearance.
The victim’s brothers “potentially witnessed this as well, which is also very concerning to the state,” Adam added.
In the 2013 incident, an officer was dispatched on June 10 to Billings Clinic to talk with a 6-year-old girl and mother, records say.
Degele and his wife had reportedly been babysitting the child and several others that afternoon. His wife had contacted the victim’s mother and told her that the 6-year-old had reported that Degele touched her inappropriately, according to prosecutors.
The girl reported to police that Degele had come into her room while they were alone and penetrated her with his finger.
Degele waived his rights and gave police a statement denying that he had been inappropriate with the girl.
Swabs collected in the girl’s sexual assault examination didn’t turn up any male DNA, records say.
Sexual assault has a maximum sentence of life in prison or between four and 100 years behind bars and a fine of up to $50,000.
Because of the 23-month-old's age, the two counts of sexual intercourse without consent carry mandatory sentences of 100 years in prison with a parole restriction for the at least the first 25 years.