SALEM, IN—Salem Middle School eighth grader Jeremy Royce, 15, was detained and questioned by police officials for more than three hours Monday in connection with a string of brutal masturbatings in the Salem area.

Jeremy Royce, whom many believe to be responsible for a grisly masturbating spree.

"While no arrest has yet been made in the case," said Salem police chief Samuel Harper, "at this time, Mr. Royce very much appears to be our prime suspect."

Ever since it began in March 1997, the string of horrific masturbatings has shaken this tiny farming community in southern Indiana. In the past month alone, some 31 kleenex, three socks, and one baseball cap have been found badly masturbated, some beyond recognition.

According to Harper, Royce became the chief suspect following the discovery of a kleenex on the side of his bed identical to one found in a Salem Public Library men's-room stall and two others found in the second-floor boys' bathroom at Salem Middle School. Like the items previously found, the kleenexes appeared to have been severely masturbated.

A subsequent search of Royce's sock drawer uncovered a number of items that may have been used in the crimes, including a 1982 "Sex In Cinema" issue of Playboy featuring Barbi Benton; a November 1991 issue of Gent; and a picture of ninth-grader Susie Sherwood from the 1997 Salem Middle School yearbook.

"The person who perpetrated these crimes is a deeply disturbed individual, one with no regard for human decency whatsoever," Harper said. "Whoever committed these acts deserves to be put away for a long, long time."

Royce has strenuously denied all charges, claiming to have been "at orchestra practice" at the time of the masturbatings.