Va. Man, 89, Convicted of Molestation

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 15, 2005

An 89-year-old Reston man who volunteered in three Fairfax County elementary schools was convicted yesterday on three felony counts of molesting a 13-year-old girl.

Kenneth Bayer, who lives on Rosedown Drive, is a retired geophysicist and one of the oldest known criminal defendants in the Washington area. He began volunteering in schools, a church and a hospital after his wife of 57 years died, his attorney said. His wife's death also led a friendly family to make him an "adopted grandpa" and trusted guardian, authorities said.

Bayer was arrested March 3 after the girl and her family contacted authorities. The investigation led Fairfax police to charge the principal at one of the schools where Bayer volunteered, Dogwood Elementary, with failing to report Bayer's abuse after she was told about it, although the abuse did not occur at any of the schools. Bayer also volunteered at Hunters Woods and Hutchison elementaries.

A Fairfax judge later exonerated the principal, Ricki Harvey.

Fairfax Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Michael P. Ben'Ary said yesterday that Bayer had been trusted enough by his adopted family to care for the girl by himself. Last fall, Ben'Ary said, Bayer began making sexual comments to the girl and later began fondling her. The conduct continued into February, the prosecutor said.

After the girl reported the activity, police had her make a tape-recorded phone call to Bayer, in which Bayer acknowledged molesting her, Ben'Ary said. He was then questioned by a Fairfax police detective, Ben'Ary said, and made further admissions.

Bayer was indicted on two counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of indecent liberties with a child. He entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that prosecutors have enough evidence to win a conviction. Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush informed Bayer that the plea had the same effect as a guilty plea.

The victim and her parents were in the courtroom but declined to comment. Ben'Ary said the family had agreed that a jail sentence of 11 months would be acceptable for Bayer, and that was submitted to Roush. She will decide Feb. 17 whether to impose that sentence. If she thinks a longer term is required, Bayer can withdraw his plea.

Ben'Ary then asked that Bayer's bond be revoked and that he be sent to jail immediately. "In any case of sexual abuse," Ben'Ary said, "especially where one gained trust with the family and then broke it in the worst way, the perpetrator should not be allowed to leave the courtroom through the same door as the victim."

Steven D. Stone, Bayer's attorney, said Bayer is in the early stages of dementia. Roush allowed him to remain free on bond.

Stone said after the plea: "This guy's not a pedophile. There's no record of that anywhere. There's no indication of sexual deviancy." The lawyer said he was shocked when he met Bayer to see "how confused, how lost this person was."

Bayer's situation raised the question, Stone said, of "how many elderly people are out there suffering, in the early stages of dementia." He said mental deterioration often goes unnoticed, and "their loss of the ability to control themselves is causing them to get in trouble and get in harm's way."

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