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Sunday, 10-September-2006
By Jennifer Sullivan(Seattle Times ) - A Seattle man accused of molesting a boy at a child-care center inside a Seattle elementary school has worked with children most of his life, a relative said.

The 34-year-old man, who has owned and operated Critters Childcare inside Beacon Hill and Kimball elementary schools since last September, was arrested Wednesday after police say a boy told his mother that the man had molested him for the past two years.

Though the man worked at the schools for only one year, police aren't saying whether he also had contact with the boy during his previous job at a nearby community center.

Investigators haven't said at which school the alleged molestations occurred, but Seattle schools officials have banned the man from both campuses until the police investigation is completed, said district spokeswoman Patti Spencer. Both child-care centers remain open.

"Before all of this happened, he was very well-known and trusted in the community," a relative of the suspect said Friday.

"He's been working with kids as long as I can remember."

Before working at the schools, the man ran a child-care program at Jefferson Community Center in Beacon Hill. He resigned in August 2005, said Dewey Potter, spokeswoman for the Seattle Parks Department, which oversees the community center.

Potter said the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) licensed the community-center day care. She said the man passed a state criminal-background check before working at the center and that she didn't know of any abuse allegations when the man worked there.

Potter said she didn't know when the man started working at the facility.

Seattle police Sgt. Deanna Nollette said investigators aren't aware of additional reports of molestation but said the case remains an open.
The man is not being named because The Seattle Times usually doesn't name suspects until charges are filed.

Kathy Spears, a DSHS spokeswoman, said her agency doesn't have any reports of alleged abuse at either Critters Childcare facility. She said the man was licensed to provide child care from September 2005 until March 2007.

Spears said she didn't have any records from the man's time at the community center.

State Child Protective Services officials are investigating the alleged molestations. Critters Childcare has a contract to provide before- and after-school child care inside both Beacon Hill and Kimball elementary schools.

The Seattle Public Schools sent letters home Friday with students at those schools explaining the situation. The letters also were sent home with Maple Elementary students in case children had contact with the man while he worked at the nearby Jefferson Community Center, Spencer said.

In the letter, district officials said they will invite representatives of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center to talk with parents about how to discuss sexual abuse with their children.

Nollette said parents should use the arrest as an opportunity to talk to their children about appropriate and inappropriate touching. She said if a child says he or she has been abused, parents should dial 911.

The suspect's relative, who asked that his name and relationship to the suspect not be published for his family's protection, said he has talked with the man since he was released on bail from the King County Jail on Thursday.

"He's always been a great kid and never gotten into any trouble," the relative said.

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