September 18, 2013

Maine day-care workers sued over sex abuse

The state's suit on behalf of a victim accuses the owner of negligence and her husband of assault.

By RACHEL OHM Kennebec Journal

NORRIDGEWOCK — Two workers at a Norridgewock day-care center that was shut down after four children were molested there are being sued by the state Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of one of the children.

click image to enlarge

In this June 2013 file photo, defendant Horace Barstow, right, sits beside a Somerset County jail transport deputy moments after he was sentenced to four years in prison for unlawful sexual contact of children in Skowhegan District Court.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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In this March 2013 file photo, children's toys can be seen outside the ABC 123 Daycare shortly after kids went back inside on Upper Main Street in Norridgewock, Maine. The owners of the daycare, which was shut down after four children were molested, are now facing a civil lawsuit filed by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of one of the children.

Staff photo by David Leaming

The lawsuit claims assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress by Horace Barstow, as well as negligence by his wife, Barbara Barstow, owner of ABC 123 Daycare.

Both denied the charges in written statements filed with the court.

Horace Barstow, 67, was convicted in June on four counts of unlawful sexual contact with children and is in prison.

The department filed the lawsuit on behalf of a 5-year-old boy who is in foster care. It claims Barstow touched the boy's genitals and caused him harm and emotional distress, and it accuses Barstow of intentional and reckless conduct.

According to the lawsuit, Horace Barstow acted as a worker at the day-care center, operated at the couple's home at 43 Upper Main St., and had direct interaction with children.

All of the victims were under the age of 14.

The preliminary work for the lawsuit filed July 29 in Somerset County Superior Court is just beginning, and the earliest it could go to trial is May 2014, said Paul Sumberg, the lawyer representing the department and the child. He said he is gathering records from the department and scheduling depositions for the Barstows.

The child is doing "reasonably well," but Sumberg did not want to say anything else about him.

He wasn't sure how much money the department would be asking for in damages.

No other lawsuits have been filed against the Barstows, and Sumberg said he did not know whether other victims would be filing claims.

The DHHS declined to comment on the matter.

Barbara Barstow could not be reached for comment and did not respond to a note left at her home seeking comment.

Horace Barstow had no comment when contacted at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, where he is imprisoned, a corrections spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Also, no lawyer is on record in court documents as representing the Barstows. Sumberg said the Barstows' insurance company was notified because there is a chance that the negligence charge could be covered under homeowner's insurance.

Insurance companies don't usually cover the damages accrued by intentional acts, he said.

As part of a plea deal, Horace Barstow pleaded guilty June 19 to four charges of unlawful sexual contact with four children at the day-care center between November and January.

DHHS shut the business down in March, about two weeks after Barstow was arrested, and Barbara Barstow is no longer a licensed child care provider, according to department spokesman John Martins.

Horace Barstow is a former Somerset County Sheriff's Department deputy and was a reserve officer with the Norridgewock Police Department, which closed in 1986. His sentence included 10 years in prison with all but four years suspended, and 10 years of probation.

He also must register as a sex offender for life.

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

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