GULFPORT -- A former Long Beach police officer has admitted he had sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend in his patrol car and a vacant house while on duty over a period of about five months.
Patrick Klis, 46, of Pass Christian, pleaded guilty on two counts of statutory rape Friday in Harrison County Circuit Court. He was to go on trial Monday on five counts of unlawful sex acts that occurred from Nov. 1, 2013, through April 1, 2014.
Klis faces maximum penalties of 60 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Under state law, his prison term must be served in full without consideration for early release.
Circuit Judge Chris Schmidt ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set a sentencing hearing for Jan. 28, 2016. Schmidt said he wants copies of police narratives and witness statements before he decides on the punishment.
Klis, a retired Seabee, and his wife held hands as they walked into the courthouse Friday afternoon.
In admitting what he had done, Klis told Schmidt he had reconnected with a former military friend who had a 14-year-old daughter, and he would pick her up and take her places.
"I found myself attracted to her," Klis said. "I found myself caught up in the relationship. I encouraged her to have sex with me and she eventually agreed.
"We had sex on multiple occasions."
Klis said he often picked up the girl and a 13-year-old girl and took them to the VFW or an abandoned house, and he sent the girl text messages "all the time" while she was in school.
Assistant District Attorney Crosby Parker told the judge Klis left out some details.
"He was grooming the victim as evidenced by over 9,000 pages of Facebook messages" through which Klis "secretly exploited her in private messages," Parker said.
Klis, on many times, had the girl sneak out of her parents' home to meet him while he was on duty. Other times, Klis was in his patrol car when he picked up the girl at her home, and also when he picked up two of her friends, girls ages 13 and 14.
"He took the girls with him while responding to police calls and would have them hide in the patrol car or would leave them alone at the VFW or the vacant house," Parker said.
The guilty plea means "the victim won't be forced to re-live what happened," the prosecutor said. The girl and her parents did not attend Friday's hearing.
The actions of Klis also damaged the image of Long Beach police and law enforcement officers from across the coastal counties, Parker said.
Klis had been free on bonds that totalled $300,000. Schmidt ordered him taken into custody after the hearing.
Fired after arrest
Klis was a Long Beach police officer about 6 1/2 years. He was a patrol officer and held the rank of sergeant. He had retired from the Navy after 20 years with six combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Long Beach Police Chief Wayne McDowell fired Klis following his arrest April 4, 2014.
Klis faced trial on one count of touching of a child for lustful purposes and two counts each of statutory rape and sexual battery.
Diary led to probe
Harrison County sheriff's detectives began investigating the sex-crime allegations after a man read his 13-year-old daughter's diary and contacted police. The girl wrote that she didn't understand why she couldn't be with an older teenager when one of her friends was seeing a man, an affidavit said.
A Harrison County grand jury indicted him March 9 after the investigation also revealed Klis and the girl had created Facebook pages using aliases. A Sun Herald review of the pages showed the couple claimed they were married. Their pages had pictures, including one of Klis in uniform.
One of his last Facebook posts was a slideshow of pictures of him and the girl while a love song played.
Girl gave details
Klis had created an alias profile Oct. 13, 2013. The girl told investigators she and Klis began having a relationship that October, when she was 14, and said they first had sex on her 15th birthday the next month, a court document said.
The girl gave investigators details of the relationship and said Klis had sent her nude pictures of himself in private messages on Facebook.
The girl said she loved Klis and she called him her best friend, the affidavit said. She admitted they were having sex once or twice a week while Klis was on duty. She said Klis had a key to the vacant home where they met for sex.
"It is imperative that we hold criminals accountable for betraying the innocence and trust of children under their watch," District Attorney Joel Smith said.
Long Beach police and the District Attorney's Office assisted in the investigation. ADA Alison Baker assisted in the prosecution.