A former College Park day-care provider was convicted yesterday of molesting an 11-year-old girl in her care, and was acquitted of charges that she sexually abused two younger children.
Gloria Tippett, 46, who ran a day-care center in her home before Maryland authorities ordered it closed in March, was found guilty of one count of child abuse. But Circuit Judge Joseph Casula found her not guilty of molesting two other girls, ages 4 and 5.
Tippett faces two more trials on charges stemming from the alleged sexual abuse of two other children who were in her care. Tippett's father, John A. Tippett, 69, is a codefendant in one of those cases.
The three girls who testified at last week's trial in Prince George's County all said Gloria Tippett "touched" them indecently at various times last year at her day-care center at 5111 Mineola Rd.
Casula, who presided at Tippett's non-jury trial, noted yesterday that physicians who examined the two younger girls found no convincing evidence that either had been sexually abused. A third physician, who examined the 11-year-old, testified that he found a small amount of scar tissue that probably had resulted from "vaginal penetration."
"I've agonized over this case since it began," the judge said, referring to his difficulty in deciding how much weight to give to the testimony of the alleged victims. The 4-year-old girl testified via closed-circuit television; the others appeared in the courtroom.
It was the relative clarity of the 11-year-old girl's testimony, combined with the findings of the physician who examined her, that led to the guilty verdict, Casula said. As for the acquittals, Casula noted the lack of physical evidence and said he found the testimony of the younger girls to be less credible.
"We're talking about 'beyond a reasonable doubt,' " he said. "I have to put aside emotion. We're dealing with the law here . . . . I cannot convict the defendant on that testimony beyond a reasonable doubt."
He scheduled Tippett's sentencing for Dec. 3. Over a prosecutor's objection, he allowed her to remain free on $50,000 bond. She could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
The prosecutor, Beverly Woodard, called the verdicts fair. Tippett's attorney, Sean Cleary, left the courtroom immediately with his client and could not be reached later for comment.
Tippett also was convicted of third-degree sex offense and battery in the case of the 11-year-old girl. But both those crimes are elements of the more serious crime of child abuse. Because she was found guilty of the most serious charge, she will not be sentenced for the two others.
Maryland officials said they began investigating Tippett in January after a physician reported that a child he had examined who was in Tippett's care showed symptoms of sexual abuse.
When she was ordered to stop providing day care in March, authorities said, Tippett had been caring for children in her College Park home for about a year. Earlier, they said, she ran a day-care facility at a different location for about seven years.
In one of the cases that has yet to come to trial, Tippett and her father are charged with one count each of child abuse, third-degree sex offense and battery, related to the alleged sexual abuse of an 8-year-old boy. In that case, Gloria Tippett allegedly restrained the child while John Tippett allegedly molested him.
In the second case, Gloria Tippett was indicted on the same charges, stemming from the alleged sexual abuse of a 4-year-old girl.