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Reynoldsville man found guilty of sexually assaulting 11-year-old girl


Jefferson County, PA – A Reynoldsville man was found guilty of numerous child sexual assault charges of an 11-year-old girl.

Jefferson County District Attorney Jeff Burkett announces that, after a jury trial held on June 17-18, Michael Scott Zernell of Reynoldsville was found guilty of criminal attempt to commit statutory sexual assault, two counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 13, aggravated indecent assault of a child under the age of 13, and three counts of indecent assault.

The jury also found him guilty of six child pornography offenses, three counts of criminal use of a communications facility, and three counts of invasion of privacy.

He was also convicted of six counts of aggravated assault and fleeing and eluding related to him fleeing from Pennsylvania State Troopers who were pursuing him.

Zernell was caught in February 2020 after leading police on a 75-minute long police chase throughout Jefferson County after being accused of assaulting the girl.

Burkett, who tried the case along with Assistant District Attorney Kris Carlini, stated, “Michael Zernell is a child predator. He needed to be removed from society, and we were happy to make that happen.”

Burkett thanked former Reynoldsville Police Chief Troy Bell (Bell is now the chief of the Brockway Police Department) for the work he did on the case. Burkett also thanked the Pennsylvania State Police, ADA Carlini, and County Detectives Jeff Lee and Dave Ray. Burkett also expressed a special thanks to his victim/witness advocate Michelle Fusco and Robin McMillen from Passages for providing care to the victims and their family. He thanked Honey Dusch for her work in making the courtroom presentation of evidence “smooth and seamless”. Burkett also thanked Pat Berger and the staff of Western PA CARES for Kids Child Advocacy for the fine work they did on the case.

Zernell will be sentenced after the completion of an assessment by the Commonwealth’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board.