Former Child-Care Worker, MCPS Employee Sentenced to Six Months for Sexually Abusing Child
Beltsville man inappropriately touched girl during summer program in 2016
Photo via Montgomery County Police
A former child-care worker and school system employee who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a child in 2018 was sentenced this week to six months in jail.
Thomas Ridges, an 18-year employee of Horizon Child Care Inc. in Silver Spring, pleaded guilty in April to the charge after inappropriately touching a teenage girl during a summer school program in 2016, according to court records.
Ridges, 39, 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 girl had believed the touching was accidental, according to police. Ridges, of Beltsville, 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 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 court records.
A Montgomery County Circuit Court 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.
The maximum sentence for sexual abuse of a minor is 25 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Ridges to 18 months.
“We have to accept the judge’s decision in the matter,” said Ramon Korionoff, Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office spokesman. “At least this defendant is held accountable and will be on the sex offenders registry for life.”
Ridges had worked at Burnt Mills Elementary School from 2005 to 2007, Francis Scott Key Middle School from 2006 to 2007 and at Springbrook High School, where he was a junior varsity basketball coach and paraeducator since 2007. He is no longer employed by the school system or Horizon Child Care, according to representatives of the organizations.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at email@example.com