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Thomas Underwood of Palm Coast Sentenced to Life in Prison for Raping Children He Babysat

| July 9, 2014

Thomas Underwood.

Thomas Underwood, the Palm Coast man accused of raping and molesting children he’d babysat years ago, was sentenced to life in prison in Flagler County Circuit Court Wednesday.

Underwood pleaded no contest to eight life felonies, including seven counts of sexual battery on a child (or rape) and one count of molestation on a child. Judge J. David Walsh, following the recommendation of state prosecutors, sentenced Underwood to 30 years in prison for the seven counts of rape, and a life sentence for the lewd and lascivious molestation count. But the sentences are to run consecutively, as opposed to concurrently, thus making it certain that Underwood will not see freedom again.

Assistant State Attorney Christy Opsahl filed a motion asking the court to declare Underwood a registered sexual predator, which is a statutorily required consequence of the conviction, though the designation will be irrelevant, as it is designed more for public awareness when a predator has been released than for inmates sentenced to life in prison. If anything, the designation will make life more difficult for Underwood in prison, where sexual predators whose victims were children are shunned and often attacked by fellow inmates.

Underwood committed the crimes over a period of time in the mid-nineties against several victims. The crimes went unreported until victims came forward 16 years later. In 2012, a grown man and a woman had accused Thomas Underwood of repeatedly abusing them sexually in the 1990s when they were younger than 12 and Underwood himself was a teenager.

The previous story detailing that history is below.

Thomas Underwood, 31, of Palm Coast, Accused of Molesting Children He Babysat Years Ago

Dec. 21, 2012–Thomas Underwood, a 31-year-old resident of Bradmore Lane in Palm Coast, is back at the Flagler County jail since Thursday, without bond, on a series of charges of sexual abuse of boys and girls dating back many years. He had been jailed twice before in the last two years, on a charge of battery on a pregnant woman, and a drunk driving charge.

Thursday’s arrest is based on the accounts of two victims, a man and a woman who were 8 and 10 at the time they claim to have been repeatedly molested by Underwood, who was their babysitter. Flagler County Sheriff’s investigators believe there are more victims. In one case, a victim said Thomas’s family was aware of the allegedly serial abuse but because of religious beliefs, never reported it for fear that he would “go to hell.”

One victim, now a woman of 24, came forward to authorities in July. She sais the alleged molesting began in the early summer of 1996 and extended to the Christmas of 1998. Thomas was 15 years old in 1996. Over the course of those two years, the woman says, Thomas would “come into her bedroom at night,” according to authorities’ probable cause statement, “and take off her pants and underwear and touch and penetrate her vagina with his fingers.” The victim said Thomas would be fondling himself or asking her to fondle him at the same time.

Thomas was in charge of babysitting the girl, though it isn’t clear whether Thomas and the victim are related. But the statement makes clear that victim and alleged perpetrator lived either under the same roof or in the house next door. The girl’s father was usually at work when the alleged abuse occurred, according to the statement, while her mother was frequently at another house.

According to the probable cause statement, Thomas would have the girl come into his bedroom to fold clothes, only to make her watch pornographic movies and attempt to have her act out scenes in the movie, including allegations of oral sex. “Thomas told her that if she did not perform oral sex on him, he would put ‘wolf spiders’ that lived in his closet in her mouth.”

The alleged rapes did not include vaginal penetration, though Thomas, according to the statement, “attempted to penetrate her anus on occasions.” That had followed an instance of alleged oral sex when the girl had hurt Thomas.

It was after seeing a movie featuring a powerful female character who rebuffed a male aggressor with a particular line–“I’m not like that anymore”–that the victim “felt empowered” by the phrase to stop the alleged abuse. When Thomas allegedly started to rub her butt, she told him: “I’m not like that anymore.” Thomas, according to the report, never attempted to sexually abuse her anymore after that.

The victim says she had not reported the matter previously because she did not have family support, and she feared that if she told her father, he would kill Thomas. She said she felt this way because she’d seen how upset her father had become when he’d discovered that Thomas had allegedly abused a cousin of the family, following which Thomas had been sent away to live with another family member (a grandmother in Jacksonville). She has now moved back into town, and “she had support from people now and wanted to go forward with this incident.” The alleged incidents were numerous, however, as were the revelations of other alleged victims in the girl’s family.

The victim had originally reported the allegations in 2011, along with a cousin who had similar allegations, but they did not follow through with an interview because she got the impression that police had not been interested in pursuing the case. It isn’t clear if she was referring to a local jurisdiction or to another elsewhere. She was later urged by an investigator to come forward again and provide a full statement.

The statement goes on to outline allegations of another victim who was about 5 when the alleged abuse began. At that time, Thomas babysat the alleged victim at her home on Sabal Palm Street in Bunnell. The alleged abuse, similar in many respects to the one described by the previous victim, was repeated until the girl was about 10, when she told her mother. The victim told an investigator that she wasn’t sure that her mother believed her because Thomas was still allowed to babysit her and her brother. The victim, according to the statement of probable cause, “also stated that Thomas’s family was aware of him sexually abusing several children in the family but because of their religious beliefs they never reported the abuse because they were worried that he would ‘go to hell.'”

When that alleged victim spoke of the abuse to several of her cousins, they disclosed similar allegations.

One victim, a boy at the time of the alleged abuse, was interviewed while incarcerated on an unrelated charge. That interview took place on Nov. 20. The man, who is now 22, said he was 10 the last time he recalled instances of abuse by Thomas. That allegation includes instances of rape, when Thomas would allegedly anally penetrate the boy. The abuse, according to the man, allegedly began when he was 6 or 7, and that it took place “almost every time he babysat him.” The man said Thomas would allegedly threaten to kill him or kill his father if he told. The man estimated that there’d been 200 to 300 instances of alleged abuse in the mid to late 1990s.

The man told an investigator that on one occasion, a family friend called “Lester” walked in on Thomas as Thomas was allegedly sodomizing him. Lester reportedly told Thomas’s father, who then, according to the victim, almost “took Thomas’s head off.”

Update: In an interview on Dec. 28, the man referred to as “Lester” came forward and willingly identified himself as Ricky Ewart, 33, of Corning, Iowa. Ewart said he had been living at the house at the time, had known Thomas as “a good kid,” and was startled–and angered–to discover what he said he saw him doing to the younger boy.

“He was just a family member of where I was staying,” Ewart said, “he was a good kid, it’s not something you would have thought him doing.” But the incident, Ewart said, “really messed with my understanding of how people worked.” Ewart on Dec. 28 provided a long deposition by phone to Flagler County authorities, he said, describing additional issues he has since learned in connection with the case. He said he’d willingly testify in any further proceedings. “If I’m needed, I’ll be on a plane the next day,” Ewart said.

Additional counts against Thomas–there are eight in all–detail the allegations of another woman who was about 6 when the alleged abuse began. She lived next-door to Thomas, but said the alleged abuse would sometimes take place in the woods, sometimes at her home, sometimes at his. She said she denied to her parents that she’d been abused because Thomas had “trained” her through such denials. In one instance, Thomas had allegedly left a hickey on her skin, which triggered an argument between her parents and Thomas’s who, as the victim recalled, then kicked Thomas out of the house.

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37 Responses for “Thomas Underwood of Palm Coast Sentenced to Life in Prison for Raping Children He Babysat”

  1. Nancy N. says:

    I hope the family members and other adults who were aware of the abuse and did nothing about it are also charged. They are also responsible for the victimization of those children.

    • Anonymous says:

      you know he was a child when all this happen too..

      • Anonymous says:

        I say that something should have been done when he was a child. Why now? Why wait till he has a family and trying to get his life straitened out? He needed help as a child and no one provided it. He was a victim himself so maybe all of you who are looking at all of this as him being an adult should look at this as a screwed up child that needed help and the world threw him to the dogs to fix it all on his own. What would u do if you found out years later that your child had done something like this to another one of your children? Would you find out what caused the accused child to do something like this, because something must have happened to cause it. Or would you condemn him and say good riddance?

        • orphan says:

          @ anon

          I hear you. LOUD AND CLEAR!
          There are kids in my neighborhood that are being abused every day.
          It doesn’t have to be sexual abuse. But every FORM of abuse holds in it’s heart the same chance that somewhere up ahead it will impact a child in a most negative manner. This I know.
          The abuse of prescription drugs is catastrophic here in this country!
          You people wanting a Socialist world make me sick!
          If people were still held accountable for their misdeeds then we would not be having this *chat*.

          • Geezer from his yacht says:

            “Socialist world”

            Pray tell us what you’re talking about.
            It should be very interesting.

            I await your reply with bated breath as I fasten my posterior securely to my ottoman.

        • squirrel says:

          I don’t think he needs a little time with other felons I think he needs psychotherapy and lots of time in rehab.

      • Flagler resident says:

        Maybe so, but rape is rape, regardless.

  2. Candy h says:

    what you all dont get is they should have done something bout this 16 years ago..they should have gotten him help.. he was a child him self.. an now since they are all grow up an are going after him now is just sick.. that man has 3 boys an a wife an they shouldn’t have to be dealing with all I know for a fact some of what this is saying is a lie they are going by he said she said stuff there is no proof that any of this is real

    • PC Mom says:

      He shouldn’t have to deal with this?! Obviously you don’t have kids, Candy. I can tell you that if he did this to one of my kids, dealing with the law would be the easy way out for him.
      I am so sorry to inconvenience him with this, but he should have thought about it before touching these kids. At 15, you are old enough to know better than to do that!!

    • IRISHGIRL says:

      Are you saying all of those children should just “get over it”??? Shame on you. Hope this man wasn’t around any of your kids. He deserves the punishment he will surely receive in jail. Then he will know what it feels like, All of those kids need counseling so they don’t repeat the process on other kids. And of the adults who turned a blind eye, should worry about going to hell themselves!

      • Truth Seeker says:

        @IRISHGIRL Good Job! I get so tired of people in society where adults just don’t know the damage of what molestation does to a child. (speaking first hand-although I don’t call myself a victim anymore, I choose to say I am a SURVIVOR) Molestation changes everything about a child. All the way through adulthood too. In the way we act around people, the way we become over protective parents- the way that we look at anyone around our children-measuring up everyone we meet silently, thinking could they be a perpetrator?(I even had many years of extensive counseling) Yes I’m a survivor, but because of the molestation that happened to me as a child, it molded me into the adult I am today at 50 yrs old. ALWAYS-quietly suspicious of ANYONE that is friendly to a child. Any punishment he receives will never measure up to the damage he has done to each child as an individual-shaping their personality for the rest of their life!!

  3. bull says:

    Reguardless of how long ago this happened… it still happened! No matter what, its messed up and this man deserves everything he gets. I understand he has a family but what about other people’s cases who take years to come out. They still have to pay for it. Who’s to say he hasn’t done anything to his own kids if obviously being related to his victims didn’t matter, neither did gender. This wouldn’t be going the way its going right now if there wasn’t enough evidence. He did this to himself. People are responsible for their own actions. Face the facts, he finally got caught and now he must pay the price!!

  4. Ben Dover says:

    And what if it isn t a lie , what if he molests the three kids he has Candy, you want to look into their eyes afterwards and tell them you were responsible for keeping him there to shatter their lives too?

    • Anonymous says:

      I say everyone should just let the authorities do their job and stop all the assumptions. If all of it is true then the truth will come out. And all the lies will come out. And to blame something on religion is sooooo pathetic. They never believed that he would go to Hell if they turned him in. But the parents of the male that was abused should be in JAIL along with him because they new about it and did nothing. The mother of the accused should be as well because all she did was send him away. She should have turned him in so he could get some help.

  5. Ben Dover says:

    When I was 15 years old I knew raping little girls and little boys was wrong, hell I knew it when I was 5 , yes his family who knew should have done something then , but you can not leave him around little kids now

  6. Anonymous says:

    Oh and to Bull, He got caught years ago, and yes he should pay for what he did but they need to look at it as one child to another not an adult to a child.

  7. abehlen says:

    I was in just utter shock when my friend sent me this today….. wow.. I grew up right down the street from Thomas and never seen any of this. We hung out everyday in and out of school. I know that he had a very abusive family and wasn’t at his house a whole lot because he was always with me and another friend. Sure is funny that his parents get away with abusing him. But back to the matter here, I was never attacked or abused by Thomas that’s why I’m so shocked on these charges. I think he spent his entire high years trying to date me…. I just can’t imagine all of this happening. If it really did I feel bad for all the victims but I do think that something isn’t right here and I do hope that Fla law really looks into this. If they want to go that far back and charge someone with abuse they should look into his family as well.

    • Anonymous says:

      well just found out bout this not happy he lived with me for 6 months i took care of him got him a job bought him glasses when my dog chewed them and he used to watch my daughter its hard to believe i cant say what i want so im leavin it at he just better hope it aint true

  8. jennifer says:

    Its not true he didnt do any of it he is a good man and a good husband and father and would never harm any child

    • aye-to-eye says:

      You are right, he tried to be a good man. He tried to be a good husband, and tried to be a good father. But he did harm children and they are all grown and talking now. I know your family and his, and him a lot longer than you. And I can only imagine what you must be feeling and what you must be going through, but because you dont want to believe it doesn’t mean it didnt happen. There was a reason he did not change diapers if he had to wipe the poop off the child, there was a reason he didnt bathe your son. He told me in confidence in conversation that he was scared to bathe his son. I dont think he would hurt his son, but even he was afraid that he might and he stayed clear of those situations so he couldnt hurt his child. That is a reality he had within himself that he needed to avoid situations where he was capable of doing wrong. For you its wrong to say its not true because you dont want to believe it because for the kids that reported it, their pain in very real as are their memories. They deserve a chance at happy healthy lives, as they did nothing wrong. A child does not ask to be abused and to address the science of it they are psychologically damaged, and your words may make them feel isolated. Addressing the science on his side, when a person engages in sexual activity with a child they are considered a pedophile, and their minds are not wired the same. As much as he tried to lead a better life for you and your family he still has the ability to hurt others in him until the day he dies. Your pain in justified, but your words are not. There could have been a day where he was tired of trying to be good, and if that day had ever happened you would have had to bear a great pain as a woman, wife, and mother that he had hurt your precious baby. In this whole situation you are a victim too, you didn’t ask for this to be done to you. You didn’t ask for your family to be stolen, you had no control, you are in pain, and you feel lost. you share a lot with the kids that reported this.

  9. A mother of 4 says:

    I am a mother of four and I know him, his family and most involved and know that he didn’t do what he is being accused of doing. He is a great father and has never harmed his children or anyone elses. He is also a man that had a screwed up upbring and a messed up home life. He has had some issues with the law, but he is straighting up his life. He didn’t do this and the people that are making this up are sick. I know what it’s like to go through this and have no one believe you and to live with it every day, but I would never make things up like this for any reason. Fom what I know anbd that’s alot this is a bunch of lies being brought on by people that want to hurt him because they can’t stand that he’s happy and changing his life.

  10. Bull-Crap says:

    If these *children* can’t even remember their RESCUER then it’s lies! When someone is being RAPED and someone comes to their rescue then they will remember that person for the rest of their life. And they need a doctors point of view on the young man that was anally raped because when someone is raped in that manner then they will most likely be bleeding and having a hard time walking! If he was raped this way before it was caught then someone would have noticed because of the child’s behavior and the inability of being able to walk. I hope this will be a fair trial because at the moment it doesn’t seem that way. I mean look- all this is being posted online and was broadcast all over the news with a lot of details, so any one that is on the jury will already have their verdict because of all the wrong information that they have already read! The only way to have a FAIR trial is to bring in a jury from another state that has heard NOTHING on this case.

  11. sup? says:

    Hi! I am a member of this family and I would like to point out a few things. 1. the statement ,(“come into her bedroom at night,”) and (The girl’s father was usually at work when the alleged abuse occurred, according to the statement, while her mother was frequently at another house.) Their father worked days! 3. (Thomas would have the girl come into his bedroom to fold clothes, only to make her watch pornographic movies and attempt to have her act out scenes in the movie, including allegations of oral sex. “Thomas told her that if she did not perform oral sex on him, he would put ‘wolf spiders’ that lived in his closet in her mouth.”) Thomas never had a T.V in his room! And when she told me about this years ago her story was a lot different. 4. (When that alleged victim spoke of the abuse to several of her cousins, they disclosed similar allegations.) sorry but I know her and speaking to ‘several’ of her cousins,the same cousins she has always got together with and talked them into doing anything she wanted, sounds like a setup to me.

  12. never let him out says:

    It’s sad how all of this comes out after being with him. Putting up with the physical, mental and sexual abuse every damn day of my life with him. Never knowing about any of this. He did a lot of this to me as well… there’s a difference though, I was of age. It was still against my will though. He needs to go through what he put everyone else through.

  13. Anonymous says:


  14. JR Chavez says:

    I’m not sure why the less intelligent feel he shouldn’t be charged all these years later. Do you think “all these years later” the victims have “erased” the memories? It’s called embarrassment and fear — EVEN MORE reason for him to be charged. He’s well known in the area, none of us knew about him being a pedophile. One jackass wrote about him having 3 kids and trying to straighten his life out…? He’s in his 30’s, he’s a grown man… his “wife” (are they back together?) is a slut, I know – It took me 20 mins to get in the sack with her (jen) the first night I met her. He won’t bathe his own kids because he knows he’ll molest them —- that’s not “okay”….that’s a SICKNESS that never goes away – EVER. Cure for pedophilia is DEATH, there’s no other cure. In this case, he’ll get LIFE in prison, which is almost as good – inmates love his type in there, LOVEEEE it. Anyone who feels this punk should be getting off without spending the rest of his pathetic days behind bars should be behind bars with him – those who feel pedophiles should have a “chance” are just as guilty, and only have ONE CURE for them too……..

  15. Sandra Reynolds says:

    I’m sure he will get his “just dues” in prison. Child molesters are not looked upon too kindly by other prisoners.

  16. Kendall says:

    I’m very happy for the victims today. It took so much courage for them to come forward as adults and face this deviant dirtbag. I hope they can take some comfort- and pride in knowing that justice is being served and he will never hurt another child again.

    I also hope the people that are defending him and provided him access to their children are having a professional mental health worker talk to those children to make sure they were not molested by this monster.

  17. Anonymous says:

    If he started molesting children when he was 15, chances are, he never stopped. Doesn’t matter that he was married and had children, that has nothing to do with it. I pray for the survivors and I pray that God has mercy on his soul.

  18. ⓖⓔⓔⓩⓔⓡ -loves ya baby says:

    What makes child molesters tick? How does one become aroused at the sight of children?
    Most of us never want to understand the how’s and why’s.
    This type crime eclipses murder in its vileness. At least murder, with all its savagery
    can be understood while still abhorred by society.

    A life sentence served with people of his ilk is appropriate, with no chance of parole.
    Thomas Underwood deserves to be inducted into the castrato crowd. (have his hem taken up)
    We do it to man’s best friend – why not him?

    Ok I’m getting nauseous.

  19. No name says:

    And if his family was so religious why did they beat & abuse him? I don’t think 8 different people family or not would all lie about something like this, where would they pull out of their ass we all got raped if it didn’t really happen? If someone you know was killed by a 15 year old and that man was found years and years later you mean to tell me he shouldn’t go to jail because it happens when he was a kid? Hahaha…

  20. Anonymous says:

    I dated him on and off for about two years during this time period and I could never imagine him doing such a thing. He was so respectful and sweet with me, it’s just difficult for me to believe this is all true. My heart goes out to those kids he abused, as well as to his own children who will grow up without a father. Tom has a good heart, and I only wish he could have gotten the help he needed immediately instead of family covering up what he was doing. If only I’d had known, I would have turned him in before anyone else got hurt. I never saw the signs… he was so good to me, it’s just unbelievable.

  21. AJ says:

    So its ok for casey Anthony to murder her innocent daughter but this mentally challenged guy gets life? Wtf

  22. Anonymous says:

    No, it is not ok for Casey Anthony. I don’t think this article is about our broken system, but about a lot of broken people.

  23. anonymous says:

    I wanna know how he got into the marines if he is mentally challenged

  24. Jarred Doddlemyer says:

    Although Thomas Underwood made many mistakes while he was a minor, he was also apart of what he thought to be normal. This man was molested throughout his childhood. Many studies show that minors who have been brought up in such scenarios tend to believe that molestation is a normal act. Many believe that at 15 years old, a child should be aware of what is wrong and what is right. How is one to judge this notion when the child has been molested multiple times in his own childhood experience. Furthermore, it does not help when one of the victims (his sister) has motive to throw her brother (Thomas) under the bus. That will teach parents to have a favorite. Thomas’ sister is just as mentally unstable and has also made many mistakes throughout her childhood and adulthood, but sits back with the magnified glass on an ant hill. Many of the facts in relation to “the wolf spiders” victim is complete bullshit. I am more than positive that Thomas has legitimately committed acts of molestation, but lets get realistic. A molested 15 year old boy has no realistic concept on right or wrong in relation to sexual content. If a victim comes forward and speaks of molestation during a time when Thomas was an adult with a loving wife and kids, I’ll be very surprised. Obviously at a later point in Thomas’ life he realized that the sexual abuse he endured was not normal. The man requires a lot of therapy, not a life sentence. Shame on the sister for manipulating facts so that she could feel a part of his demise.

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