WESTMINSTER -- The man baked cookies with his nieces, took care of them after school and spent afternoons lounging in the living room with them watching television.
But, police said, on more than 50 occasions in the last five years, he sexually abused the three girls, who are now between the ages of 8 and 15.
The suspect is a Westminster man who was arrested last week and charged with 17 counts of sexual abuse, child abuse, battery and perversion. He was freed on personal recognizance Friday. His name is being withheld from this article to protect the privacy of his nieces.
A state police investigation began in May after his 10-year-old niece told her parents that he abused her "on many occasions since she was 8," said District Court charging documents.
The documents said the girl told state police and Department of Social Services investigators "that between 1990 and 1992, [the suspect] had performed sexual acts on her approximately 50 or more times. The offenses occurred so frequently that she could not recall many specific dates."
The most recent time the girl remembers being fondled by the suspect, the court document said, was after school on May 13.
Investigators also learned of a previous abuse accusation by another family member against the suspect. In June, his 15-year-old niece told investigators that he fondled her in 1987 when she stayed overnight at his home.
During the visit, court documents said, the girl, then 9, and the suspect "were alone in the living room, watching television." The documents said he asked her to lie down next to him and fondled her.
When the girl told her parents, it caused "tremendous turmoil in both families," but they agreed not to tell authorities after the man told them "the incident was not meant in any sexual way," said the documents.
In addition, the court papers said, investigators learned that the man fondled the 15-year-old's 8-year-old sister at least four times in the last year.
When the younger girl was interviewed by state police, "she was scared. She began to cry after saying, 'I was scared that I would get in trouble if I told.' "
If he is convicted, the suspect could be sentenced to up to 155 years in state prison.