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Father Accused of Abuse On Trial in Montgomery


Father Accused of Abuse On Trial in Montgomery

Author: Victoria Churchville, Washington Post Staff Writer

A 51-year-old Montgomery County man went on trial yesterday in the first of four cases of alleged child abuse arising from complaints that he molested his daughters over a 13-year-period.

The prosecutor told the jury yesterday that one of the man's daughters, now 25, kept her "terrible secret" to herself, even though she had been molested several times a week for half a dozen years.

The man was arrested Jan. 4 as the result of an investigation that began after his three natural daughters and their mother went to police last November.

The fourth trial involves allegations that the man also molested a daughter that he and his wife adopted.

If convicted in all four trials, the man, a retired IBM computer operator, could be sentenced to up to 60 years in prison.

Yesterday, in the first of those cases, attorneys presented widely different pictures of the defendant.

Prosecutor Barry A. Hamilton said the father engaged in a "pattern of serious, relentless sexual abuse."

Defense attorney Thomas Heeney, however, argued that his client was too ill with an inoperable heart ailment to have sex with his wife, much less abuse his child. There was no "house of terror" in the daughter's "essentially normal life," Heeney said.

Her father was a loving man who, in addition to his five natural and adopted children, took in three foster children and worked hard to supply the family with three homes -- a horse farm in Pennsylvania, a beach cottage in Ocean City and the family home and farm in upper Montgomery County.

In testimony yesterday, his middle daughter, a 25-year-old Gaithersburg teacher, told a jury that her father sexually abused her two or three times a week from the time she was in fifth grade at St. Catherine Laboure parochial school in Wheaton through her junior year at Damascus High School.

She testified that her father threatened to kill her if she told anyone, and said she never told anyone about her relationship with her father until last fall.

Later this month, the man, whose name is not being used in this story because it is the same as some of the alleged victims, faces two more criminal trials arising from complaints by his two other natural daughters. The fourth trial, based on a complaint by his adopted daughter, is scheduled for trial in November.

Court documents show that the oldest daughter alleges her father abused her between 1971 and 1973; the youngest, 21, alleges sexual abuse between 1975 and 1978, and the adopted daughter alleges abuse occurred as recently as last year.

Although the alleged incidents spanned 13 years, under Maryland law, there is no statute of limitations on cases of child abuse.

While the complaints allege that more than one of the young women were sexually abused during the same period of time, Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Leonard Ruben ruled that only testimony in the 25-year-old daughter's case could be presented yesterday.

The daughter who testified yesterday, in answer to a question posed by her father's attorney, said she had never seen her father sexually abuse her older sister.

"I put so much of it in the back of my mind because I couldn't think about it. I felt I was an isolated victim and I didn't have the strength to come out," she said, breaking into tears.

Asked by Heeney why she didn't warn her sisters, three foster daughters or the adopted child, she replied: "That's my own guilt to live with."

It is a family embattled in county courts on several fronts.

After 29 years of marriage, the couple is seeking a divorce, and battling for custody of the adopted children, the girl 13 and a 12-year-old boy, and for assets worth close to a half-million dollars.

1984 Aug 9