DETROIT (WWJ) – A 38-year-old man could spend the next 40 years in jail after running off with a 15-year-old girl he impregnated.
Robert Messer pleaded guilty in Wayne County Circuit Court to one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of accosting a child for immoral purposes.
In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped three charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one charge of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a person under age 13.
The plea comes nearly four months after Messer’s first trial ended with a hung jury and a mistrial.
Messer was charged last October after running off with a 15-year-old Emily Lalinsky, described as a close family friend he met in church.
Lisa Schwartz, the teen’s mother, told WWJ Messer was like an uncle to her daughter, and it wasn’t unusual for the pair to be seen together.
“Usually they hung out with his son, so it wasn’t … it’s not like it was always the two of ‘em,” she said. “He’s got children and they would hang out. It’s not like they were always together by themselves.”
But this time was different — both left notes behind declaring their love for one another.
The notes said “they’re in love, they’re sorry that it worked out this way, nobody can do anything to change it,” Lisa Schwartz, the teen’s mother, told WWJ.
Schwartz notified police after finding the notes on Oct. 27, which seemed to indicate the love-struck couple had no intention of returning.
“She had left a little blurb for each of her sisters,” Schwartz said.
Two days later, the pair was found in a Washtenaw County field with what were described as “minor self-inflicted injuries” — a failed suicide pact, according to Lalinsky. A witness who recognized Messer truck from news reports saw the couple and notified police.
Lalinsky was taken to the hospital for treatment and observation while Messer was placed under arrest.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Messer apparently drove Lalinsky from her Plymouth Township home to his home in Northville. Later that afternoon, Messer and Lalinsky were seen leaving his home together, Worthy said. The couple then spent the next few days living out of Messer’s truck.
Messer apparently had sexual contact with Lalinsky at locations in Wayne and Washtenaw counties.
About a year before the couple ran off, Messer’s ex-wife accused him of having an inappropriate relationship with the teen — something Messer and Lalinsky both denied. Police and Child Protective Services were contacted, but didn’t pursue the case any further.
During a preliminary exam in November, the teen revealed her sexual relationship with Messer had been going on for about three years, and that their first sexual contact happened when she was in sixth grade. She said she had instigated the sexual relationship and that they had sex “often.”
“I was convinced I was in a relationship with him,” she said.
Lalinsky has since given birth to a boy fathered by Messer.
Messer is due back in court for sentencing on Aug. 22. His plea agreement calls for a sentence of 20 to 40 years. As part of his sentence, Messer will be required to register as a sex offender and have lifetime electronic monitoring after prison. He’s also barred from having contact with Lalinsky and her family.