A 94-year-old man arrested on suspicion of child molestation at a local trailer park pled not guilty at a June 21 arraignment.
The next case management conference is scheduled for July 6 at 10:30 a.m. in Globe.
Since the man is being held in the Globe jail, the case will be heard there, said Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores.
According to a police report, neighbors first became suspicious of the man when they found him in a tenant’s garage holding the hose of a running vacuum to the front of his pants.
This discovery set off a series of admissions from children living in the trailer park. Three children, ranging in age from 8 to 17, claimed the man had touched them inappropriately.
During a police interview, the man maintained he had not touched any of the children and did not even know their names.
In April, the mother of one of the victims, who also owns the vacuum cleaner, told police she and a friend were in her home putting a bed together. In the garage, the woman heard the vacuum start. The woman sent her friend out to investigate and when he came back in, he said a man was holding the vacuum hose to the front of his pants. The friend did not confront the man and the vacuum continued running for roughly 15 minutes.
When the woman told other residents of the park about the incident in her garage, a neighbor said her daughter may have been inappropriately touched by the man.
“When she discussed this with her daughter, (name removed) explained that she had dropped a pencil or pen in the trailer park while she was near (name removed), and when she bent over to pick it up, (name removed) touched her in her buttocks area and also ran his hand up her back,” the police report states.
Further, the woman said it was not unusual to see the man talking with children in the park and he was frequently seen walking up and down the trailer park “peeping into residences,” the police report states.
Several residents said they saw the man take toys out of the Dumpster and bring them back to his home.
Around Christmas time, the man gave two girls bolo ties and then several days later, demanded them back. The girls returned the bolo ties.
During forensic interviews with several children, one admitted that the man had put his hand down her pants and another said the man had touched her on the back, according to the police report.
One girl explained to investigators that when the man put his hand down her pants, she looked at the man and said, “Why did you do that? I’m only 8.”
The girl also admitted the man would tickle her over her shirt, which made her uncomfortable. Other children said the man touched them over their clothes.
After interviewing six children, Det. Michael Varga said he noticed a pattern of the man grooming three victims by buying them gifts and building trust over time.
After a three-week investigation, Varga arrested the man on charges of public sexual indecency, aggravated assault and child molestation.
During an interview, the man told Varga he had been given a “bunch of horse----” because he had not touched any of the children.
“Upon conclusion of the interview, I advised (name removed) of the charges against him and why. He responded by stating, ‘isn’t that nice’ and ‘that’s interesting,’” Varga said in a police report.
Michael Bernays is representing the accused.