A Barre man working for a Vermont social services agency was allegedly caught on camera molesting an autistic child in Kirby this weekend.
And police say the man admitted to the crime - twice.
Jonathan Fox, 53, pleaded not guilty in Caledonia Superior Court Monday to felony lewd & lascivious conduct with a child and was released by Judge Timothy B. Tomasi on conditions.
However, the judge declined to grant a request by Caledonia County State’s Attorney Jessica Zaleski that Fox only be released into the custody of a court-approved custodian to enforce conditions of release that require Fox to have no contact with the alleged victim or other children under the age of 18.
Caledonia Superior Court
Fox’s defense attorney, Sam Swope of St. Johnsbury, argued that imposing a custodian condition was just too restrictive.
“I do think this is overly restrictive either to ensure future appearance or to protect public safety,” said Swope.
But Zaleski kept pushing.
“The state’s concern here is less about the risk of flight as it is protecting small children,” said Zaleski. “It’s our understanding that Mr. Fox is employed by a company. He caretakes or offers assistance for folks who have special needs children…It is an ongoing investigation. At this point, the state does not have enough information with respect to Mr. Fox’s employment status and access to other small children to be able to really ensure other childrens’ safety.”
But Judge Tomasi denied the request.
Police say Fox inappropriately touched an autistic and non-verbal ten-year-old child at a Kirby residence Sunday and that the child’s mother told police Fox had been hired as a caretaker for the child but had recently been acting suspiciously.
“(She) told me that Fox had been seen taking photos of the juvenile #1 and the nanny camera she has in juvenile #1’s room had been turned around on several occasions,” wrote Vermont State Police Tpr. David Hastings in his report. “She advised that she had an instinct that something was not right, so she got another video system in her residence.”
The child’s parents were not home at the time of the alleged incident but returned home after reportedly witnessing the alleged crime on video.
“She confronted Fox,” wrote Tpr. Hastings. “He advised he was sorry and the reason he touched Juvenile #1 was because he had the opportunity to.”
Police then questioned Fox who, according to court documents, admitted to touching the child’s genitals and buttocks.
“Fox told me that it was not in a sexual way that he touched Juvenile #1, but out of curiosity,” wrote Tpr. Hastings. “Fox advised that Juvenile #1 looked kind of cute and was curious how Juvenile #1 would respond.”
According to Swope, Fox works for the South Burlington-based organization, “NFI Vermont” which is a private, non-profit agency that serves Vermont families whose children struggle with severe emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges.
If convicted of the charge Fox faces a possible sentence of 2-15 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.