– A former Watonwan County sheriff killed himself earlier this month, hours after he was told by police he was being investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting two girls.

Jack Keech, 83, admitted to investigators in a Sept. 15 interview that several years ago, he inappropriately touched one of the girls, knew it was wrong, and apologized, according to an investigative file. He was found dead later that same day at his home in Madelia.

According to a newspaper obituary, Keech was Watonwan County sheriff for eight years and a Watonwan County deputy sheriff for 16 years.

According to a Blue Earth County investigative file, the investigation began in late August after Blue Earth County Human Services received a complaint of alleged child abuse from a girl who said Keech, who was known to her, had sexually abused her several years earlier when she was in the fourth grade and another girl when she was in the second grade.

According to the file, the girl said the abuse occurred over several years and she decided to come forward because she didn’t want to stay silent any longer. She told investigators her family refused to believe her story but nonetheless kept Keech from the girls afterward.

Investigators interviewed the girls on Sept. 6 and, according to the file, both indicated Keech had molested them multiple times at his home.

One girl said Keech also made her look at pornography on his computer. The other girl said Keech once told her he wished she was older and he was younger so they could get married, according to the file.

A Blue Earth County sheriff’s investigator said he contacted Watonwan County because the alleged assaults happened in their jurisdiction, according to the file. Blue Earth County agreed to pursue the investigation after Watonwan County raised concerns about a possible conflict because of Keech’s former positions in the department.

Keech admitted he once inappropriately touched one of the girls while giving her a massage, according to the investigation report. He denied any additional sexual contact with the girls.

The file indicates Blue Earth County investigator Brian Martin said he would have recommended charging Keech with several counts of criminal sexual conduct. Keech was found dead later that day, according to the case file.