Man, 71, held in sex abuse of 5 children

January 26, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

The 71-year-old husband of a day-care provider was charged yesterday with sexually abusing five children at the couple's Edgewater home, Anne Arundel County police said.

Earl Joseph Donnelly Jr. was arrested about 4 a.m. at his home in the 1000 block of Carrs Wharf Road. He is charged with a second-degree sex offense, four counts of fourth-degree sex offense and five counts of child abuse, police said.

The victims were children ranging from 7 to 10 years old who were at the home to be cared for by Mr. Donnelly's wife, Margaret Donnelly, police said.

No charges have been filed against Mrs. Donnelly, but police said that she was running an unlicensed day-care facility.

The investigation into sexual abuse began Monday after a parent notified protective services that his child recently had been victimized, said Officer Terry Crowe, a county police spokesman.

Officer Crowe said the Donnelly home has been used as a day-care facility for as many as nine to 13 children on any given day and has been operating for at least five years.

"These charges are based on interviews with five children; we're interviewing other children and there's still a lot of investigating to do," Officer Crowe said.

Mr. Donnelly was not involved in the day-to-day operation of the day care facility, but he was home during the course of business hours, police said.

A fourth-degree sex offense typically relates to fondling and a second-degree sex offense to oral contact. Police refused to elaborate.

Mr. Donnelly was being held last night at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center in lieu of $150,000 bond. His arrest was a shock to neighbors on his waterfront street.

"They've arrested Mr. Donnelly? Oh my God!" said a woman who lives on the street. "I can't believe it. Mrs. Donnelly has been running a day-care center over there for a long time. She has a reputation for being very strict, but very good, with the children."

"She [Mrs. Donnelly] is a very respectable, stern woman. Day care is her career. It's how they make a living," the woman said. "The kids would sometimes complain about having to go over there, but it was always because she was tough and didn't let them get away with anything."

The woman, who asked that her name be withheld, said Mr. Donnelly is a quiet, relaxed man who has lived with his wife in the neighborhood for more than 20 years.

Another neighbor described Mr. Donnelly as "a nice gentleman. He and his wife are a respectable elderly couple. I can't imagine what was going on over there."

The Donnellys could not be reached last night.

Police said the investigation is continuing and asked anyone with information to call the Child Abuse Unit at 222-3480.

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