NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

August 8, 2013

Man charged in sex assault on girl, 7

Comes after report he took photo under skirt at market

By Bill Cantwell and Mike LaBella
Staffer Writers

---- — HAVERHILL — Police said they have charged a 38-year-old Haverhill man after a report that he took a photo under the skirt of a 7-year-old girl in a supermarket.

Police Lt. Robert Pistone said the arrest happened last night, after investigators received several tips from the public about the man’s identity.

The tips came after a photo of a suspect appeared today on The Eagle-Tribune’s website. The photo was taken from a surveillance video in the Market Basket store in Westgate Plaza.

Pistone declined to release the man’s name last night, saying police were in the process of getting a search warrant for his home.

The man is charged with attempted indecent assault and battery on a person under 14, Pistone said. He is expected to be arraigned in Haverhill District Court this morning.

Pistone thanked the public for helping police on the case.

“We got a lot of tips,’’ he said. “We followed up on quite a few.’’

The incident leading to the arrest happened Monday about 1:30 p.m. The girl’s mother reported the man seemed to be stalking them in the store before reaching out with a cell phone and apparently taking a photo under the girl’s skirt.

The woman told police she became suspicious when a man began following her and her daughter around the grocery store. After a while she thought he was gone, so she continued with her shopping, she said.

A short time later, the woman and her daughter were looking at products in one of the store’s aisles, unaware the man had returned and was standing a few feet behind them, according to a police report. The man appeared to be waiting in a “stalking mode,” the police said. The woman said she grabbed her daughter and pulled her close.

The woman said she asked the man if he had touched her daughter, and he responded by saying he was sorry — and then walked off.

Police said the incident was brought to the attention of the store’s manager by the girl’s mother. The manager said the woman and her daughter went to the service desk to report what happened.

The manager said that after speaking with the woman, he told her he would call the police, but the woman responded by saying her daughter was upset and thought that speaking with police would further upset her, according to the police report.

The manager said the woman left her name and phone number with him, and then she and the girl left the store. The manager notified police.

Police contacted the woman and she told them that a man had been following her and her daughter around the store for about 15 minutes and that she first noticed him while they were shopping in the meat and fruit section. The woman told police she eventually lost sight of him, but he reappeared later.

After being notified of the incident, police said they issued an alert to area police departments giving the man’s description and asking them to be on the lookout for him.