BY ANGIE JACKSON
---- — ELK RAPIDS — Victor Ivan Cole raped and strangled a 28-year-old woman at a Bass Lake cabin in 1976, angered, he said, because she backed out of a promise to have sex with him after he won a board game bet.
Cole, now 58, spent decades in prison for her slaying but was released in 2010 and returned to Antrim County because his crime occurred before sentencing law changes required offenders to serve their full terms. He was sentenced to 50 to 75 years, but served 33 years.
Now Cole finds himself in trouble again for two -- perhaps more -- sexually motivated assaults, prompting authorities and others to cast a wary eye his way.
Cole attempted to kiss a woman at the Elk Rapids District Library last summer. Then, in the fall, he walked up behind an elderly woman as she retrieved mail, put his arm around her and made comments, Antrim County Prosecutor Charles Koop said. The second incident occurred at Vacation Village in Elk Rapids, where Cole lived with his mother.
Another incident at Vacation Village is under investigation, Koop said.
George Knight owns Vacation Village. He filed a restraining order against Cole after he returned to the senior citizen mobile home community. It's an effort to protect residents and his business, he said.
"Several of the people who live there are single people by themselves who have lost a spouse, and I don’t want to further raise a concern in terms of their own health and safety," Knight said. "That’s my business and I don’t want our reputation to be tainted because of one person’s behavior."
Knight said Cole's mother is a long-term resident of Vacation Village. Officials there were aware of Cole's prison release, but couldn't prevent him from residing there prior to the assault.
"He wasn’t beyond his rights, and nor was his mother," Knight said. "I did talk with her and it was stated it was a temporary thing. Otherwise the guy would be on the street. I think his mom is doing what most moms would do."
Cole's mother could not be reached for comment.
Cole was arrested for the first misdemeanor assault in December and recently pleaded guilty. He acknowledged he inappropriately touched another person on a separate occasion, but the second charge was dismissed.
He's scheduled to be sentenced in district court today, but already will have served the maximum sentence of 93 days jail time through good time credit. He likely will be released "back out in the public without any restrictions," Koop said.
Elk Rapids Police Chief Tom Emerson said community members have a right to be concerned, but police have "been on top of this 100 percent."
"I think with his past history that there is the potential there for problems," Emerson said. "Obviously, being incarcerated hasn't changed his behavior."
Cole served only a portion of his 1977 sentence because the Michigan Department of Corrections allotted 41 years good time credit "right when he walked in the door," Koop said. Truth in sentencing, which became state law in 1998, requires prisoners serve the minimum sentence before they are considered for parole.
Cole was discharged and not paroled because he technically served the maximum sentence.
Authorities said they'll keep Cole in their sights, and Koop said his office will work with victims to file personal protection orders against Cole.
"He’s paid his debt to society and we have to respect his constitutional rights. But we also have to make the public aware with his picture that he is not a person that you should lightly be alone with," Koop said.