Columbus resident arrested after being seen outside Whiteland school

Police have arrested a man that an investigation showed was exposing himself outside of a Whiteland elementary school earlier this week.

James P. Snodgrass, 62, Columbus, was arrested on a charge of public indecency three days after a suspicious car was seen at Whiteland Elementary School.

He told police that he had a problem for more than 40 years and had been watching children play while masturbating, the police report said.

Snodgrass, who has a prior conviction for incest, served nearly 20 years in prison and was listed on the sex offender registry until 2015, the report said. He told police he had been previously arrested for public indecency, the report said. Further information about his criminal record was not available.

On Monday, a school employee told police a car was parked near the playground while children were playing at the school on Center Street. She approached the vehicle and believed the man was touching himself, but he drove away, according to the police report.

The woman took photos of the man and his vehicle, including his license plate, the report said.

School staff were notified to be on alert and watch anyone around the school. The school also was put on a version of a lockdown, where visitors and people around the school are more closely monitored, said John Venter, school spokesman. School officials also sent a letter to parents about what had happened, he said.

The letter wasn’t sent to the entire school district immediately because police asked school officials not to release information while the investigation was ongoing, Venter said.

Police were able to track down Snodgrass from the vehicle description and license plate number, and left messages for him by phone and at his Columbus home. Snodgrass spoke with a Whiteland police officer and said he wasn’t going to lie, and told them about his problem.

He told police he had been doing well with controlling his exhibitionism but had been stressed recently, including with medical issues. He said he had been traveling through the area and felt the urge and stopped at the school, the report said.

Snodgrass told police he would never hurt anyone and would never return to the area, the report said. He also told police he gets urges and children usually calm him down, the report said.

A school employee noticed his phone when he was in the car, but Snodgrass told police he was not taking pictures of the children, the report said.

Snodgrass, 3084 N. Stanley Lane, was arrested and taken to the Johnson County jail, where he was released on $1,200 bond.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.