Husband of day-care operator accused of abuse over a year

January 27, 1994|By Kris Antonelli and Peter Hermann | Kris Antonelli and Peter Hermann,Staff Writers

Court documents charge that Earl J. Donnelly, 71, fondled five elementary-school-age girls at his wife's unlicensed day-care center in southern Anne Arundel County for at least a year and performed oral sex on one of the children in addition to forcing her to perform oral sex on him.

Mr. Donnelly, of the 1000 block of Carrs Wharf Road in Edgewater, posted $150,000 bail yesterday after police arrested him early Tuesday morning. He is charged with 11 counts that include child abuse, second-degree sex offenses and fourth-degree sex offenses.

Faye Scheibe, county police spokeswoman, said yesterday the department's investigation isn't over.

The mother of one of the alleged victims said yesterday that she was devastated by the story her daughter told her for the first time Sunday.

The woman, whose identity is being withheld to protect her daughter, said she learned of the alleged abuse when the mother of another girl called and asked her to come to her house. At that meeting, the first woman's daughter recounted abuse she said she had suffered.

"I broke down," the woman said. "It's unbelievable -- that's the only way you can explain it."

The woman said she did not know the Donnellys well, but she described Mr. Donnelly as "a very laid-back person." His wife, Margaret Donnelly, was "a very stern woman," the mother said.

"She had charge of the children," she said. "When she told the kids to go into another room and sit down, those kids moved."

The day-care operation appeared to be closed yesterday, and neither Mr. Donnelly nor his wife could be reached for comment. A woman who identified herself as the couple's daughter, Desiree May, denied the charges against her father.

"All I can say is that we are a close-knit family," she said. "We are 100 percent behind him. The truth will come out."

According to court records, the Department of Social Services notified police Sunday of the allegations against Mr. Donnelly. During the next two days, investigators interviewed the girls, who told them that Mr. Donnelly fondled them at different times. He forced one of the girls to perform oral sex in the outdoor pigeon pen, the court records say. On four occasions he performed oral sex on her, the court records said.

One of the girls told police he followed her to the bathroom and fondled her. That girl also said she saw Mr. Donnelly follow other girls into the bathroom, the charging documents say.

A girl who had been cared for in the couple's home for seven years told investigators that Mr. Donnelly had been sexually abusing her for a "number of years," the court records said.

The Child Care Administration of the state Department of Human Resources, which regulates and licenses day-care providers, said it had not received any complaints about the Donnellys. Officials urged parents to check to determine if a day-care provider is licensed.

"It doesn't eliminate the possibility of this happening," said John Graybill, the acting assistant director of program standards. "But it cuts down on the odds."

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