GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. – A Michigan man who changed his name after spending years in prison made friends with the family member of a teenager so he could groom the teen for sex and also infected unknowing sexual partners with HIV, authorities said.
Man changes name after previous conviction
Genesee County Sheriff Christopher Swanson spoke during a Facebook Live stream on Friday, May 12, about the case centered around John Dushan Cole, 55.
Swanson said Cole used to be named “Johnny Peters” while facing previous charges in Genesee County.
In 1987, Peters was convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. Eight years later, he was sent to prison for uttering and publishing.
In 2013, while Swanson was working as the undersheriff, the former Genesee County Health Department director called police to report a significant increase in young men testing positive for HIV.
“They were able to track the information back to Johnny Peters, who was knowingly infecting sexual partners -- adult partners -- with HIV without informing them,” Swanson said.
Peters was charged with a felony for sexual penetration with an uninformed partner. He was convicted and sent to prison for seven years.
When Peters was released, he changed his name to John Dushan Cole, according to Swanson.
In December 2022, after being released from custody, Cole went to a community event and made a connection with someone who had a 15-year-old family member, Swanson said. The two adults bonded over a common birthday.
“Predators are always looking for some type of connection,” Swanson said. “That’s their grooming tactic. So they use that in order to get into where they can perform their sexual acts and take away the innocence of these individuals, and in this case, infect them with a fatal disease, in many cases.”
The friendship grew over the next two months, and in February, the other adult allowed Cole to take the 15-year-old family member to a basketball game, according to authorities. It was just Cole and the 15-year-old boy.
“On the way to the game is when the first sexual contact starts to happen,” Swanson said.
Cole diverted to a business in Flint Township and “aggressively started to sexually assault” the teenager, police said.
The pair went to the basketball game after the sexual assault, according to officials.
The next time Cole and the 15-year-old saw each other was on March 1. They were both at a Flint Township restaurant to have dinner for a birthday, and then there was a follow-up visit at a bowling alley, authorities said.
Additional sexual assaults took place at the bowling alley, the sheriff said.
“He is one of the most vile (predators) that I’ve seen because of the nearly four decades of doing this,” Swanson said. “His grooming tactics were some of the best that I’ve seen, in the worst way.”
Police learned about the case in April 2023 when a family member brought the 15-year-old in. That’s what sparked the new investigation.
Swanson said Cole also used a podcast to try to groom his sexual targets. During the Facebook Live, Swanson showed a segment during which Cole wore a Nickelodeon T-shirt and talked about how he wouldn’t let any other child be cold and uncared for like he was during his childhood.
Police viewed text messages exchanged between Cole and the 15-year-old after the two had gotten to know each other. Swanson said they would text multiple times per day.
“Listen, don’t even worry about that,” Cole said in one text. “I’ll give you money. You buy your own, have time for games, you should’ve called me. I’m trying to take care of you. I’m not playing any games. I’ll give you the money. You (buy) your own PlayStation, whatever you want, but you gotta do your part.”
In another text, Cole said, “Call me,” and sent the teenager two pictures of money.
Swanson called the evidence on Cole’s phone “disturbing.” Cole had a secret password-protected file on the phone that was found by forensic investigators.
Based on the evidence from Cole’s phone, police believe there are at least two other people -- adults or children -- who probably were not made aware that Cole is HIV-positive when they had sexual contact with him, according to authorities.
“We’re not just talking about criminal sexual conduct to juveniles, we’re talking about somebody who, again, intentionally infected them with HIV,” Swanson said.
Cole is currently in jail and facing 12 felony charges, according to Genesee County officials.
Those charges include knowingly engaging in intercourse with the intent to infect an uninformed partner with HIV; criminal sexual conduct in the first, second, third, and fourth degrees; accosting a child for immoral purposes; and child sexually abusive material.
Swanson said more charges against Cole are likely.