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Police Say Stafford Man Abused Foster Child


Police Say Stafford Man Abused Foster Child

November 18, 2008


The Hartford Courant

ROCKVILLE - In a confession to state police detectives given the day state and federal authorities raided his home as part of a child pornography investigation, a Stafford man admitted that he repeatedly sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl placed in his home by a foster care agency, according to the warrant for his arrest.

Craig A. Niles, 59, also transmitted images of the girl and him together to other people over the Internet, according to the warrant for his arrest. The victim, now 11, told investigators that Niles used a webcam to stream video of him abusing her to others.

When detectives asked Niles to sign the confession, he asked to call an attorney. The lawyer told him not to sign it and to stop talking, and the interview ended, the warrant said.

Before that call, Niles told investigators he has long been sexually attracted to children and started collecting online child pornography in 1994, the year a spinal injury from a car accident made walking difficult for him. Unable to work, he spent a lot of time online. He collected images of boys and girls, he said, "but my attraction leaned toward females generally between the ages of 6 years old through 14 years old."

Niles, who had several foster children in his home, claimed he asked the state Department of Children and Families to place only young boys in his home because "I was afraid that I could not control myself with young girls," the warrant said.

The detectives noted that during their interview, Niles' eyes reddened and teared up as he described what he did with the girl. At other times, Niles' "eyes would light up" and he would smile, the detectives wrote.

Niles minimized his conduct throughout the interview, contending the 10-year-old "was very affectionate" and forward. "I felt that it was OK because she was initiating the contact," he said.

He also admitted to buying sex toys and lace panties and bras for the child and showing her pornography.

He also insisted the child "was always willing and was never forced. I had a set of standards which I went by. I did not want to injure her nor did I want to force her into sex."

Much of the abuse occurred when Niles' wife, a 33-year-old woman from Thailand, was away from the home, or at night. Niles said he slept in a separate bedroom because he snores.

Niles told the detectives he thought he was "at fault" for what occurred, but also said he thought he and the girl should be punished.

The child initially denied any abuse by Niles. She then told detectives that Niles had told her not to tell anyone. She then briefly described the abuse and said Niles "uses the web cam and stuff like that."

During a second interview with child sexual-abuse specialists at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, the girl detailed the abuse and said she saw images of a naked man on a computer watching as Niles abused her.

During the raid at Niles' West Stafford Road home, investigators seized several computer storage devices, which are now being examined by the FBI. Detectives briefly checked one of those devices and in a folder called "special" found more than 50 videos of child pornography and more than 300 photographs of the 10-year-old child. Many of those photos were child pornography, according to the warrant.

Police began looking into Niles after an officer in Suffolk County, N.Y., chatted with him online about child pornography.

The undercover officer pretended to be interested in sex with children, and he and Niles carried on an explicit conversation, according to the warrant. Niles' screen name was "KidsR4Sex."

In one conversation with the officer, which occurred in June, Niles suggested they simultaneously abuse girls and watch each other online. "We should play with them both together on cam. ... They would get the idea that it's normal."

During his arraignment Monday in Superior Court, Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth C. Leaming said additional charges are likely since authorities had just began to review the computer images.

Niles is charged with first-degree sexual assault, promoting a minor in an obscene performance, employing a minor in an obscene performance, first-degree possession of child pornography, five counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, 20 counts of illicit sexual contact, and two counts of risk of injury to a minor.

The images cited in the warrant are "just a small fraction of the evidence seized that was ... reviewed," Leaming said.

At her request, Judge Kenneth Shluger increased Niles' bail to $750,000 from $500,000. "The charges are obviously significant," Leaming said. "His exposure is roughly 600 years."

Niles, who does not have a criminal record, has been a foster parent about seven years, he told the detectives.

He is not licensed by the state Department of Children and Families, but is approved as a foster parent by Dare Family Services, based in Somerville, Mass. The agency has an office in East Hartford.

"We were very shocked with the allegations," said Susan Pederzoli, a senior program manager with the agency. "Our priority at this point is the safety of the child who was in that home." The girl and the two boys are now in DCF custody.

Pederzoli said agency officials visited the home weekly and were in close contact with school officials and others. Niles had also passed a background check, she said.

"Unfortunately, sometimes all the safeguards in the world don't prevent situations like this, but they make them more rare," Pederzoli said.

Gary Kleeblatt, a spokesman for DCF, said the agency will review "the decision and process used by the private agency to approve the family." DCF, he said, "is deeply troubled" and is cooperating with police.

2008 Nov 18