WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A yearlong investigation into allegations that a Springfield man sexually molested several children beginning when one of them was 4 years old has resulted in felony charges.
David LaClair, 60, pleaded not guilty Friday in White River Junction criminal court to three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. He was taken to the Springfield prison for lack of $5,000 bail.
“These are not three separate acts on a single child, but rather three separate children,” Deputy State’s Attorney Heidi Remick said in court.
LaClair “ admitted to sexual contact with each of these three children,” the prosecutor said, and the children described abuse lasting much longer than the admitted acts.
Remick said investigators believe the abuse spanned four or five years beginning around 2010 when LaClair was staying with friends who had young children.
The children reported the repeated acts to high school counselors and teen phone hotline, according to an affidavit by Detective Matthew Sweitzer of the Vermont State Police.
One of the children told investigators she reported the alleged abuse to her mother, who did not believe her at the time, Sweitzer said.
Remick said the children’s accounts were consistent, “ and each observed at least some of the abuse of the others.”
When LaClair was interviewed Thursday, the detective said, he initially denied even knowing some of the children. But he later told investigators “he drank alcohol and consumed cocaine and heroin” during the period in question, and “ maybe ( he) watched pornography while children were present,” the affidavit said.
LaClair came to court voluntarily Friday and stood behind the defense table with oxygen tubes in his nostrils.
“ I would note that Mr. LaClair is in exceeding poor health,”defense attorney Erik Braghirol said.
“ He requires oxygen 24 hours a day and he has surgeries scheduled on both his lungs for June at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.”
Remick asked the court to hold LeClair without bail, noting he could face up to 45 years in prison if convicted of all charges, and has a history of alcohol-related offenses.
Judge Theresa DiMauro set bail at $5,000.
“His physical condition suggests he does not pose a substantial risk to public safety under his present circumstances,” she said.
BUCYRUS - He told police he raped a 5-year-old girl, and now could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Donald C. Fisher, 56, of Bucyrus, was sentenced Monday to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years after he entered a plea of guilty to one count of first-degree felony rape.
Fisher was arrested in February two days after he molested the child, according the Crawford County Prosecutor Matt Crall. It wasn't the man's first sex-related conviction— Crall said Fisher was found guilty of gross sexual imposition in 1988.
Crall explained that the child's mother left the girl alone with Fisher while she went grocery shopping Feb. 25. When she came home, she noticed the man's pants were unbuckled.
"He said the child had put her hands down his pants," Crall said.
Crawford County Common Pleas Judge Sean Leuthold explained to Fisher that his crime was so severe that even the judge himself couldn't keep Fisher out of prison.
"You have to spend 15 years in prison before you're eligible for parole," Leuthold told the man. "You may very well spend the rest of your life in prison."
The judge reminded the man at the start of the hearing that he was entitled to call upon 12 of his peers for a full jury trial should he wish to avoid such a lengthy sentence, but the man's attorney told Leuthold that Fisher had no intentions of denying his guilt.
With that, the judge asked the man how he wanted to plea to his rape charge.
"Guilty, Your Honor," Fisher told Leuthold.
With that, Leuthold told the man he was now a Tier-3 sex offender. For the rest of his life, Fisher must tell the county sheriff every time he moves, buys a different car, finds a new job or even creates a new email account. The felon must also visit the sheriff's office in person every 90 days, until he dies.
Leuthold told Fisher that it would be up to the parole board to decide in 15 years if Fisher will ever be released from prison.
The judge wanted to know if the man had anything to say for himself.
"I know what I've done is wrong, and I'm sorry to cause this hurt and confusion for the victim and her family," Fisher said. "Maybe someday I can be forgiven."
Leuthold appeared unmoved by the felon's sentiments.
"Mr. Fisher, it's not my job to forgive you," he told the prisoner. "It's my job to punish you."
The judge said he was particularly disgusted by the way the man built trust with the victim's family, then struck when he had time alone with the little girl.
"You've got a lot of things in your life to make up for," Leuthold said. "I can't even comprehend how you will do it, but I would try, if I were you."
A 48-year-old man is going to state prison for 15 years to life for molesting two underage female relatives, including one over several years of sleepovers in Fullerton beginning when she was 7.
Amador Estrada received his 15-to-life sentence Friday after having been convicted of three counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor younger than 14, with jurors also finding true sentencing enhancement allegations for multiple victims.
Evidence was also presented during the trial alleging Estrada also victimized a third relative, but he was not charged for that.
The successful prosecution covers molestations that happened between Oct. 21, 2009, and June 19, 2012, when Estrada's youngest victim told friends at her elementary school what had happened to her, and the word spread to the principal, who contact police.
The girl had previously informed family members, but they did not contact authorities. The Fullerton police investigation uncovered the stories of the other girls, including one who accused Estrada of “licking his lips” as he leered at her crotch.