By Rachel Ohm
SKOWHEGAN - A former Somerset County sheriff’s deputy pleaded guilty Wednesday to molesting four young girls at his wife’s former day care center.
Horace Barstow, 67, will serve 10 years in prison with all but four years suspended and 10 years probation. He accepted a plea bargain that was satisfactory to the victims and their families, according to Somerset County Assistant District Attorney Brent Davis.
During the hearing in Skowhegan District Court, Davis summarized witness accounts that he said would have been used as testimony if the case had gone to trial.
“Each victim would have testified that they were touched by Horace Barstow. Each one said they were touched on the vagina by Mr. Barstow,” said Davis.
Barstow originally faced three charges of class B unlawful sexual contact with children under age 12, but another charge was added Wednesday. That charge of class C unlawful sexual contact related to information from a more recent allegation, Davis said.
During the hearing, Barstow acknowledged the crimes had occurred and that the accounts read by Davis were correct. He made no statements of his own, but responded with one word answers to questions from the judge and prosecutors.
His attorney, Bill Logan, said the decision to accept the plea deal was made in order for Barstow to put the entire experience behind him at once.
“He wants to take responsibility for his actions,” said Logan. “We also wanted to spare the young children that are victims of the process of going through a difficult trial.”
Davis said that neither the victims nor any members of their families were in court on Wednesday.
Barstow was sentenced on each charge individually but will serve the sentences concurrently, effective immediately.
The initial charges come from contact with three different children that took place between Nov. 1 and Dec. 7 at ABC 123 Day Care, which was owned and operated by Barstow’s wife, at their home, according to court records.
The day care center was shut down by the Department of Health and Human Services in March shortly after Barstow was arrested on March 8.
He was indicted June 6 by a grand jury on three counts of unlawful sexual contact, a class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The most recent charge of class C unlawful sexual contact also took place at the day care and involved a female under the age 14 who said she was touched on the vagina by Barstow between Sept. 1, 2009, and June 1, 2010, said Davis. A class C felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
On Wednesday Barstow waived his right to indictment by grand jury for that charge.
He received individual sentences for each of the four counts he faced, although most of the sentences will be served concurrently.
Justice Robert Mullen said Wednesday that as terms of his sentence, Barstow is not allowed to have contact with females under the age of 16 or with any of the victims, whose names are not being released. He is not allowed to enter their residences, places of employment or places of education.
As a convicted felon Barstow is not allowed to own or operate a firearm and must also register as a sex offender for life, said Mullen. He also told Barstow that any probation violation or future charges would come with greater consequences than what he received Wednesday.
“Your conduct will affect four children for the rest of their lives. You will be under probation for a significant period of time and if you violate that probation in any way, the sentence would be considerably harsher than what you received today,” Mullen said.
Barstow is a former sheriff’s deputy with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department and was a reserve officer with the Norridgewock Police Department, which closed in 1986.