Child Care Worker Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing Girl

Child Care Worker Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing Girl

School system fought release of student’s records sought by the accused

| Published:

Thomas Henry Ridges

Montgomery County Police Department

A Silver Spring child-care worker and school system paraeducator accused of inappropriately touching a girl during a summer program recently pled guilty to sexually abusing the child.

Thomas Ridges, an 18-year employee of Silver Spring-based Horizon Child Care Inc., was driving the girl home July 20, 2018, when he asked if she remembered that he had touched her two years earlier in a “private area” and said “it was purposeful,” according to police and court records.

The child had believed the touching, which occurred during a summer camp program in 2016, was accidental, according to police. Ridges, 39, also asked about the girl’s sexual history and asked her to send naked photographs to him via text message.

The matter was reported in September and Ridges was arrested about a week later and charged by a grand jury with two counts of sexual abuse of a minor and fourth-degree sexual offense.

As the case proceeded, Ridges, of Beltsville, last month requested his now 17-year-old victim’s student records to determine if she is “credible,” saying they could indicate “she is willing to lie in order to manipulate a situation and get what she wants out of a situation,” according to filings in the court records.

The judge refused to release the records, siding with school system lawyers who argued the documents would “unjustly give the defendant access to personal and private information having no relevance to the legal issues” in the case.

About a week after the judge denied the request for the records, Ridges pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse of a minor in a deal with prosecutors where other charges were dropped.

Sentencing is scheduled for late May. The maximum sentence for sexual abuse of a minor is 25 years in prison.

Ridges is no longer listed on the school system’s staff directory. He had worked at Burnt Mills Elementary School from 2005 to 2007 and at Springbrook High School, where he was a junior varsity basketball coach, since 2007.

In a letter to parents after Ridges’ arrest, Springbrook Principal Arthur Williams called the allegations “upsetting and unacceptable.”

Attorneys for Ridges and representatives of Horizon declined comment on the case.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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