Wednesday, May 22, 2013
GORHAM -- Parents here said Friday that they want to know the name of the youth group where a Gorham man who's charged with molesting children served as a volunteer.
Stacy Burns said, "I think they should definitely let us know what groups he worked with."
John Patriquin / Staff Photographer
James Loomis, parent of two daughters, 5 and 7, says he thinks police should name the group or groups where Emerson volunteered. "It would put more caution out there."
John Patriquin / Staff Photographer
Police in Frye Island and Gorham, the towns where Michael Emerson, 48, is accused of abusing three children younger than 12, are seeking additional potential victims.
But they're relying on parents to realize that their children may have known Emerson, and are not naming the group with which he said he volunteered.
Police say they learned that Emerson volunteered with a youth group from 2005 to 2010 from an application he filed with another organization.
Emerson was arrested Sept. 28 on charges of unlawful sexual contact with two children younger than 12. He was free on bail when he was arrested again Tuesday, after another alleged victim came forward. He remains in the Cumberland County Jail, with bail set at $25,000 cash or $100,000 in property.
Emerson has no criminal convictions in Maine, according to the state Bureau of Identification, and police have said that none of the allegations against him involves volunteer work.
The Girl Scouts of Maine and the Boy Scouts of America's Pine Tree Council said this week that Emerson applied to volunteer with those groups, but never followed through with required training or participated in activities.
On Friday, leaders of other youth organizations said they trust that any groups that are familiar with Emerson are contacting families of potential victims.
But parents in Gorham, who knew little about the allegations against Emerson, wanted more information.
"I think they should definitely let us know what groups he worked with," said Stacy Burns, who has a 15-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son in Gorham schools.
She said she thinks that most parents would know the adults who interact with their children, and that she wouldn't talk to her kids about the charges unless she had reason to believe they had come in contact with Emerson.
But, she said, "it's easy to forget who your kid's soccer coach was."
James Loomis, whose 5- and 7-year-old daughters live with him in Gorham on the weekends, said he's not worried about his girls because he volunteers for the activities they're involved with in town. Still, he thinks police should name the group or groups where Emerson volunteered.
"It would put more caution out there," he said.
Meribeth Leach, whose children are 12 and 14, said the more information she had, the safer she would feel. "It's scary," she said.
Gorham Recreation Director Cindy Hazelton said Emerson has never volunteered or applied to volunteer for her department's programs.
Nor has he volunteered or worked in the town's schools, which have a "very strict protocol" for those who do, said Superintendent Ted Sharp.
There are certain "red flags" that the staff of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Maine looks for when screening volunteers, said Sam Beal, executive director of the Portland-based organization, which says it has never had contact with Emerson.
Those signs include an interest in a certain age group, too much eagerness to get involved, or just the gut feeling of a staff member, he said.
Beal said he doesn't think that naming the group where Emerson volunteered would serve a purpose other than to damage the group's reputation.
"If I were that group, and I'm very grateful I'm not, I certainly would be doing everything internally to be reaching out to participants, parents and children," he said. "I wouldn't be doing nothing."
Helen Brena, executive director of the YMCA of Southern Maine, said she believes that appropriate action is being taken behind the scenes, although she wouldn't say whether she thinks police should name the group.
She said Emerson has not been involved with any of the four branches of her organization.
"I trust the police in the process, and whatever organization, that they'll do the right thing," she said.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: