Police arrest coach on indecent assault charge
Photo courtesy of Dukes County Sheriff's Department
Part-time coach Daniel P. Parker, 59, of Tisbury was arraigned Thursday morning, February 2, in Edgartown District Court, charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14.
Tisbury detective Mark Santon arrested Mr. Parker Wednesday afternoon, February 1, based on information gathered in police interviews conducted with witnesses and the seven-year-old male victim.
Mr. Parker was transported to the Dukes County Jail, where he posted bail of $5,000, set by Edgartown District Court clerk/magistrate Liza Williamson.
As conditions of his bail, Mr. Parker was instructed to stay away from the alleged victim and the child's guardian, and also the alleged victim's residence. He was ordered to have no contact with children younger than 16 years. Mr. Parker did not have an attorney at the time of his arraignment.
A pre-trial hearing is set for February 27. The penalty for a guilty finding of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 is not more than 10 years in state prison or not more than 2.5 years in a house of corrections, and registration as a sex offender upon conviction. Mr. Parker, a potter and carpenter, has no record. He did not return a telephone call from The Times.
Mr. Parker has worked as the assistant basketball coach of the boys team at Edgartown School for seven years. He also spent time at the Boys and Girls Club in Edgartown, according to police.
The police report describes Mr. Parker as an informal caretaker "who has had occasional, unsupervised access to the boy for mentoring purposes, since approximately the beginning of September 2011."
According to the police report, two of the indecent assaults took place in September and the third in January. The assaults occurred in the apartment of the boy's grandfather, in Mr. Parker's apartment, and in Mr. Parker's truck.
A police investigation began after the boy confided in a neighbor. On January 26, the boy told a female neighbor that "he is sick of Dan touching him and doesn't want him to touch him anymore," according to the report.
That same day the neighbor and the boy's grandfather brought the boy to speak with police.
Detective Santon arranged a sexual assault intervention network interview for the child at Children's Cove in Barnstable. The facility covers Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard, working with local law enforcement personnel when an incident of child sexual abuse is alleged. The center assists in facilitating an accurate investigation and advocates for sexually abused children throughout the law enforcement process or other investigations.
Mr. Santon said he notified the Edgartown Police Department and Edgartown School when he first learned of the allegations against Mr. Parker. "Mr. Stevens was called because of Mr. Parker's connection with Edgartown School," Detective Santon said. "Nothing the victim reported was alleged to take place in a school custodial setting."
On January 30, acting on instructions from Sergeant Rodney Silvia, officer Chris Habekost contacted Mr. Parker and told him he was not to go near the Edgartown School or the Boys and Girls Club. He was also invited to come to the police station for an interview "under Miranda."
Officer Habekost told Mr. Parker that he was currently the subject of a police investigation involving him and a child. Mr. Parker told police there must be some mistake and said someone was trying to defame him, according to the report.
Mr. Parker arrived at the police station that evening and voluntarily agreed to a taped interview. He told police there were no adults who would have any reason to believe he had had inappropriate contact with any child.
Detective Santon said he called Mr. Parker on Wednesday, February 1, and asked him to come to the Tisbury police station for an interview. Mr. Parker agreed and was arrested after 2 pm, following a discussion. Detective Santon said he had no comment about Mr. Parker's reaction.
Detective Santon called Edgartown police to tell them of Mr. Parker's arrest. They in turn notified school officials.
"This has been pretty devastating news, with shocking allegations," Edgartown School principal John Stevens told The Times.
"Of course this is sad news for the community at large," superintendent of schools James Weiss said in a phone conversation with The Times last Thursday. "We believe we took appropriate action in alerting parents and terminating the individual. Beyond that, this is a police matter."
On Wednesday, Mr. Stevens immediately barred Mr. Parker from the school campus, informed school staff, and sent a letter to parents following news of Mr. Parker's arrest.
"We sent a letter with what few details we know to our parents of junior high students yesterday afternoon talking about this," Mr. Stevens said in a telephone conversation with The Times on Thursday. "I also met with our employees yesterday after school and the folks out on duty riding buses and so forth, to apprise them of the situation."
Mr. Stevens said Mr. Parker served as the assistant to the two head coaches of the boy's basketball team and worked with about five to seven junior varsity members.
"His work as a basketball coach is a very small piece of this person's life and he has had contact with very few kids here," Mr. Stevens said. "That's his only capacity at the school; he is not a teacher or an employee. We paid him a stipend the last few years."
Mr. Stevens said that Martha's Vineyard Public Schools policy requires that anyone who works with students in any capacity must undergo a background check using the state's Criminal Offender Records Investigation (CORI) process.
"Mr. Parker's last CORI was checked and approved," Mr. Stevens said. "He is under a three-year CORI check now, like every other employee and volunteer. We are very meticulous about that."
The letter Mr. Stevens sent to parents did not identify Mr. Parker by name. Mr. Stevens said he omitted the name in keeping with past practice and based on the advice of Mr. Weiss.
Asked why Mr. Stevens's letter did not identify Mr. Parker by name, Mr. Weiss said, "We didn't think it was necessary to name him. The folks who are part of the boys basketball team will all know who it is."
"The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the school's assistant basketball coach for the boys' team has been arrested and charged with indecent assault and battery on a child on February 1, 2012," Mr. Stevens wrote. "This coach is no longer associated with the school and not permitted on this campus. The alleged victim is not a student at this school, and to our knowledge, nothing inappropriate has taken place involving this individual at our school."
Mr. Stevens assured parents that school officials are working closely with the Edgartown Police Department to ensure the safety and security of students. He said all employees and volunteers undergo a complete criminal background check. "There was nothing in the individual's background check to indicate any concern," he said.
Mr. Stevens said that staff and counselors are available to speak with students. "We ask that you take this opportunity to speak with your child about the importance of personal safety and the need to communicate with trusted adults," he said.
Thursday, Peter Lambos, Martha's Vineyard Boys and Girls Club executive director, sent a similar letter reassuring parents of the club's commitment to provide a secure and safe environment for its members.
Edgartown Police officer Dave Rossi, who is also the department's school resource officer, told The Times Mr. Parker was a volunteer coach and did some volunteer work at the Boys and Girls Club. Mr. Rossi said there was no reason to believe that any crimes were committed in Edgartown.
"Parents should feel secure in knowing that the school and police department are taking an active role to protect their children," officer Rossi said. "The town of Edgartown and the Edgartown School is a wonderful place to be and that hasn't changed."
Many who know Mr. Parker said the accusations do not fit their experience of the man. Pastor Jerry Fritz of the Federated Church said he got to know Mr. Parker when Mr. Parker's's wife, Jill, ran the church youth program about five years ago.
Mr. Parker was a willing volunteer. In 2006, he joined a trip over Christmas school vacation to help the effort to rebuild New Orleans, still reeling from the effects of hurricane Katrina.
"I just have to tell you," Mr. Fritz told The Times, "reading the accounts in the newspaper, I'm overwhelmed. I cannot fathom the man that I know doing anything like this. It is just so unlike who I know him to be."
Mr. Fritz said that, in his role of pastor, he spoke to Mr. Parker following his arrest. Mr. Fritz said that what often happens is that there is no presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
"When a child speaks about those things, we need to take it very seriously," he said. "I also think that when the adult says this is not the case, we need to not act too quickly to burn them at the stake."
In a telephone conversation Friday, James Glavin, Mr. Parker's employer at Deca Construction, stood by his lead carpenter. Mr. Glavin said he had gotten to know Mr. Parker well in the past year.
"As people go, they do not come any better than this man," Mr. Glavin said. "There is no doubt in my mind that this charge is unfounded."
Mr. Glavin said Mr. Parker and his wife had reached out to help a young boy who was desperately in need of guidance. "This is what he and his wife both do, out of the goodness of their hearts," he said. "The charges are just unbelievable, based on what I know about this man."
Mr. Glavin said anybody reaching out to a troubled youngster could easily find themselves in the same situation.
"If this could happen to Dan, this could happen to anybody," he said. "It's really disheartening."