Man Faces Felony Child Abuse Charge in Assault of Girl, 14, After Accosting Children at Bus Stop
FlaglerLive | February 20, 2017
Last Updated: 5:26 p.m.
On Jan. 31 a 14-year-old girl was walking on the sidewalk on State Road 100 in Palm Coast, near McCormick Drive, the road that goes north to the Madison Green apartments in Town center, when a man on a blue bicycle rode toward her from the opposite way. As he approached the girl, he said out loud, “hey, let me get some of that,” and slapped her on her butt as he passed her–an assault that, under the law, is felony child abuse.
The girl got home and notified her grandmother, reporting the man who’d assaulted her as in his 40s, white, with a scruffy beard. The case was reported to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, but the man was not found.
On Friday (Feb. 17), the man deputies believe committed the assault was arrested and identified as William A. Walsh, 52, of 2551 North State Street in Bunnell. Walsh is also believed to have accosted children at a bus stop–a claim that helped sheriff’s deputies to identify him.
A deputy was approached on Friday by a parent whose 8-year-old child gets on and off the bus at a McCormick Drive stop. The parent told the deputy that a stranger had approached her daughter, showed her the drawing of a dog, and claimed the dog was lost. The man wanted the 8-year-old girl’s help finding the dog. The parent told the deputy that a man had been riding around on a blue bike, accosting children who got off the bike. The man was described as in his 40s, with a scruffy beard, and white.
When the deputy spoke with several students who get off the bus at the same spot, they all reported seeing a man fitting the same description “who attempts to speak with them when there are no adults at the bus stop,” Walsh’s arrest report states. They noted that he always wears a baseball cap and is often seen riding his blue bike through the Madison Green apartment complex (Madison Green Circle connects to McCormick Drive and circles the apartment complex).
The deputy–Erik Pedersen, who’s collected his share of commendations over the years–staked out the bus stop that same day. He was out of view when he observed a man riding a blue bike and fitting the description of the man the children had referred to, and that the victim had described two weeks earlier.
The man, later identified as Walsh, was riding toward the apartment complex, and wearing a baseball cap. But as soon as he detected Pedersen’s patrol car, he turned around and started heading west on SR100.
Pedersen stopped him. Walsh said he was heading home to Bunnell, and had gotten scared when he saw a cop, according to his arrest report. “William,” Pedersen reported, “had two plastic bags hanging from his handlebars and within plain view was three pairs of children’s underwear.” Walsh claimed “he bought them for a girl but could not provide a name.”
The deputy read Walsh his Miranda warnings, and during a consensual search of his person, he was revealed to be wearing girls’ underwear. Sheriff Rick Staly, in a 4 p.m. news conference on the case, specified that the undergarments were for children.
Walsh denied accosting children at the bus stop.
Deputies then created a photo line-up of various individuals, including Walsh, for the girl who’d been assaulted on the sidewalk on Jan. 31. The girl identified Walsh, and in doing so, broke down and cried.
“The child actually reacted like you would see most child abuse type victims react when they see their offender,” Staly said.
Walsh was arrested and charged with felony child abuse. He would later acknowledge speaking to the alleged victim, but not striking her. Walsh is being held at the Flagler County jail on $5,000 bond.
“We are concerned that there may be other victims out there,” Staly said. “Quite often on these kind of cases the victims don’t tell their parents because they’re afraid the adult may come back and so something to them, or they’re threatened, ‘don’t tell your parents.’ So if we have any other victims out there we would ask that they contact the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office so that we can pile up the charges that need to be on this suspect.”
On two occasions during the brief news conference the sheriff urged anyone who could provide additional information on the suspect to do so to “help us build a stronger and better case to put his ass in jail.”
He’s had several previous arrests. He was found guilty of trespass last April and was sentenced to time he’d already served at the jail. It was the second time he’d been found guilty of trespassing (he had another such charge in 2007). He’s also been guilty of public intoxication. But the child abuse charge is his first felony charge.
Watch the Rick Staly news conference this afternoon, courtesy of WNZF video: