Martha’s Vineyard man takes bat to accused child molester

Martha’s Vineyard man takes bat to accused child molester

0

The February 22 arrest of a Middleboro man by Middleboro police on child sex-abuse charges is linked to an arraignment that took place Friday in Edgartown District Court.

Frank Hebert of Vineyard Haven was arraigned on a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a Louisville Slugger baseball bat.

Mr. Hebert, who is confined to an electric wheelchair, explained to a Times reporter this week that he struck Joshua Hardy in the right arm with that bat, following a conversation in Mr. Hebert’s computer store, Mac/PC Sales and Service, on State Road in Vineyard Haven.

A short news story published on February 24 in The Taunton Gazette furnishes the context. The newspaper reported the arrest of Joshua A. Hardy, 27, for indecent assault and battery on a child, enticing a child, and disseminating obscene material to a child.

Middleboro Police detective Robert W. Lake told The Taunton newspaper that the alleged abuse took place over the course of a year and involved a child he described as “very young.”

Mr. Hardy is married to Mr. Hebert’s stepdaughter. The couple lives in Middleboro.

In a telephone conversation with The Times, Mr. Hebert said the child, whom he regards as his granddaughter, visits regularly and often with his wife and him. Recently, he says, it became apparent that something was bothering the three-year-old. He said he was surprised when she asked if Mr. Hebert and his wife would protect her.

According to a State Police incident report by Trooper Robert Branca, dated February 24, during a weekend visit in February, Mr. Hebert learned that Mr. Hardy may have sexually assaulted his granddaughter and used a cell phone to take sexually provocative photographs of the child.

Upset, on Tuesday, February 22, Mr. Hebert called Trooper Branca. Mr. Hardy was on his way to the Island to collect his stepdaughter, and Mr. Hebert wanted him arrested.

The State Police officer contacted Detective Lake, who said there was no warrant issued at that time, but that he was conducting interviews in the course of an investigation. Trooper Branca told the detective he would remain in contact.

Mr. Hardy planned to pick up the girl at 4:30 pm and then catch the 5 pm ferry to the mainland. Even as Mr. Hardy was traveling to the Vineyard, Mr. Hebert and his family were on the phone with Middleboro Police.

Mr. Hebert advised Trooper Branca that he expected Mr. Hardy at his store between 4:30 pm and 4:45 pm and that he was worried he might run away if he saw police.

“I explained to Hebert that if Hardy arrives at the store before the police arrive, not to confront Hardy,” Mr. Branca wrote. “Hebert assured me that he would not touch him. However, he did state he wanted to confront him, due to the circumstances.”

Trooper Branca again called Detective Lake, who said his investigation continued. “He advised me he was in the process of applying for a search warrant for Hardy’s cell phone and any other electronic equipment in Hardy’s possession,” Mr. Branca wrote. “Detective Lake asked me to seize the cell phone and secure it.”

Trooper Branca notified Tisbury Sgt. Rodney Sylvia to meet him at the Mac Sales Store.

“I called Hebert and asked him if Hardy arrived,” the trooper wrote. “He told me he just walked into the store, and he took Hardy’s cell from him. A few moments later I arrived at the store with Sgt. Sylvia. I was then met by Hebert. I asked where Hardy was. He told me, ‘He’s right here, crying like a baby.’ I observed Hardy sitting in a chair clutching his right elbow.”

Mr. Hebert said that when Mr. Hardy arrived, he confronted him with what he had learned from his granddaughter and demanded that Mr. Hardy provide him with his computer and cell phone.

“I told him everybody knew,” Mr. Hebert said, in a conversation with a Times reporter.

At first, Mr. Hardy denied the accusations.

“After a couple of minutes he said, ‘Fine, I did it, what are you going to do about it’ and then started laughing,” Mr. Hebert told a reporter in a conversation this week. “He got up to leave, and that was it, I hit him.”

Mr. Hardy declined medical treatment. Officer Branca told Mr. Hebert he would be issued a summons for assaulting Mr. Hardy with the bat.

Trooper Branca also contacted Detective Lake, who asked the trooper to take possession of Mr. Hardy’s cell phone, computer, camera, and a zip drive.

“All items were placed into evidence bags and secured into my cruiser,” he wrote.

Police took Mr. Hardy to the Steamship Authority terminal. En route to the State Police barracks Trooper Branca learned that Detective Lake had faxed an emergency restraining order. Trooper Branca returned to the ferry terminal and served Mr. Hardy with the order, requiring that he not contact his wife and her daughter.

The next day Middleboro Police arrived to take possession of Mr. Hardy’s computer and cell phone.

In a telephone call Friday, Wareham Police Detective Allan Courchesne said that police arrested Mr. Hardy on two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. The case is separate from the Middleboro investigation he said.

Asked why he had a bat, Mr. Hebert said, “Fear. I didn’t think it would go as well as it did. All I told him to do was sit in the chair and wait for the State Police.”

And, about striking Mr. Hardy with a baseball bat, Mr. Hebert said, “It’s just not ever what I envisioned. Not me. Hell, I can’t even stand up. How much damage can I do anyway?”

Mr. Hebert, 57, said he has never been arrested or arraigned for any crime.

“Never. First time ever. I’m not a kid,” Mr. Hebert said.

Updated April 1, 2011

This story was updated from the print version to include information that Wareham police arrested Mr. Hardy on two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14.