Saturday, September 13, 2008

Man charged with sexually abusing girls on school bus


Accusations involve two girls over a span of three years
by Robert Dongu Staff Writer
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008

Police on Thursday charged a 61-year-old Prince George's County man who worked as an aide on Montgomery County school buses with sexual abuse involving two school girls over a three-year period.

Franklin Dalton Smith, 61, of the 6800 block of Riggs Road in Hyattsville was charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a minor, two counts of second-degree assault, one count of second-degree child abuse, one count of third-degree sexual offense and one count of fourth-degree sexual offense. His bail has been set at $60,000.

"He is in custody at central processing," said Officer Melanie Brenner from the Montgomery County Police media services division. "He was brought in early this morning."

Police issued a warrant for Smith's arrest after an investigation into an April 24 report that he had allegedly molested an 11-year-old girl with Down syndrome on a special needs school bus and a prior allegation that Smith had inappropriately touched a 17-year-old girl on a bus in February 2005, according to a news release from Montgomery County Police.

Police say the 11-year-old has limited communication skills which hindered the investigation. But detectives, working with county Child Protective Services and school staff, were able to get consistent statements from the victim and another juvenile bus passenger who allegedly saw Smith inappropriately touch the girl on a school bus taking students to Glen Haven Elementary School on Inwood Avenue in Silver Spring, according to the release.

Detectives also interviewed a former student who had complained that in January and February 2005 Smith asked to meet her during non-school hours, made suggestive remarks and repeatedly massaged her head and shoulders while on the bus to Paint Branch High School on Old Columbia Pike in Burtonsville.

This victim, who was age 17 at the time, stated that Smith touched her in a sexual manner Feb. 17, 2005, while on the bus.

According to Brenner, police investigated the 2005 incident but were able to compile more evidence once the Glen Haven student came forward this year.

"We were able to get collaborating information," Brenner said.

Steve Simon, spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools, said Smith has been placed on administrative leave with pay. Simon also said he was moved to a job site away from students.

"When the recent allegations occurred, he was placed on assignment to a [bus] depot," Simon said.

Detectives want to speak to anyone who knows of any inappropriate contact Smith may have had with a juvenile. Call Detective Toner in the Family Crimes Division at 240-773-5415.

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