Saturday, January 29, 2011

SC therapist charged with sexual assault of autistic child

From WIS-TV:

MANNING, S.C. -- A Sumter man is accused of sexually assaulting an autistic child under the age of 11 and police are concerned there may be other victims.

27-year-old Bradford Smith of Sumter turned himself in to Manning police on January 19 and was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The mother of an autistic child brought the charges against Smith.

Police say Smith was a therapist with South Carolina Early Autism Project in Sumter. The boy's parent's filed the complaint with Manning Police in December 2009, at which point EAP Manager Beth Dabbs says her office ended their relationship with Smith.

Manning Police Detective Eric Rosdail tried to prosecute the case in 2009, but didn't have what they needed. "With what we had, we presented it to the solicitor," said Rosdail. "We didn't feel at that time we had enough to move forward."

So investigators kept working, pairing the victim with another therapist and waiting for the trust to build. "We're talking about an autistic child that needs to build relationships with an individual before they really open up to that individual," said Rosdail.

When the victim opened up, Rosdail says investigators got the information they needed to charge Smith. Smith was taken to the Clarendon County Detention Center and has since been released on $50,000 surety bond.

When we spoke with Smith Wednesday afternoon at his Sumter home, he said he has been advised by his attorney not to comment about the case. "I've been advised by my lawyer not to even open the door," Smith commented. "There's a reason that this will all come out."

Because of Smith's position, investigators think there could be other victims. "We know that Mr. Smith had contact with other children and these children, especially if we're dealing with other autistic children, might not be something they verbalize, but the parents may have noticed a change in behavior or something doesn't seem right," said Rosdail.