Registered sex offender charged in abuse case

April 19, 2007|By Nick Shields and Jennifer McMenamin | Nick Shields and Jennifer McMenamin,SUN REPORTERS

A registered sex offender who helped coach a recreation soccer team in Baltimore until last month has been charged with sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy in the man's Reisterstown home, police said yesterday.

Richard David Morris Jr., 24, was charged with child sexual abuse and other offenses after investigators learned that he had planned to take the boy and two others on a trip to Florida, Baltimore County police said.

The charges against Morris were filed last week, seven years after he registered as a sexually violent offender and child sex offender because he had been convicted of abusing a toddler boy. He had volunteered as an assistant soccer coach for about three months this year at the Roosevelt Park Recreation Center in Hampden, according to a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Recreation and Parks.

Morris started coaching there in January but was asked to leave in March when he refused to undergo a required background check for volunteers, said the spokeswoman, Kia McLeod. She said yesterday that the background check should have been done much sooner and that staff members at city recreation centers are well versed in the department's policy on background checks.

McLeod would not comment on any disciplinary action against staff members at the Roosevelt Center.

"It has become a personnel issue," she said.

Asked late yesterday about the ages of the players Morris coached, McLeod could not provide an answer.

The spokeswoman issued a written statement, attributed to the department's director, Connie A. Brown, that said in part: "The safety and security of the children or participants who are enrolled in our recreational programs are Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks' highest priorities."

Charging documents do not indicate that the suspect and the victim met through the recreation center.

Morris was charged, in addition to the child sexual abuse count, with third- and fourth-degree sex offenses, according to court records, which say that the suspected abuse began in August.

The 8-year-old boy told authorities, charging documents state, that he met Morris at "rec baseball" and that he knows him as "Dave." He said he slept at Morris' house every weekend and that the man kissed him and touched him inappropriately.

The boy told officials that he slept in Morris' bed and that "everybody sleeps in Dave's room," the documents stated.

County police authorities said it is important for parents to know with whom their children are associating.

"This is a man who was on the sex offender registry, yet parents were letting their children stay with him," said Bill Toohey, a county police spokesman. "People need to double-check who their children are staying with."

Authorities' interviews with at least a half-dozen other children revealed no other allegations, charging documents state.

The boy also told officials that he and several other boys had gone on trips with Morris and that "Dave has told him that he loves him and he is the most important thing in the world to Dave," according to court papers.

Morris was convicted in 2000 of a second-degree sexual offense for abusing a child over a two-year span while baby-sitting the boy from the time he was 3 until age 5, court documents show.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge John G. Turnbull II sentenced Morris to five years of supervised probation, ordering him to submit a DNA sample and to register as a sexually violent offender and a child sex offender. The judge suspended a 10-year term.

Morris wrote to the judge in 2003 to ask for clarification on his classification in the state's sex offender registry.

"This is a serious offense that I committed and not a day goes by that I do not regret what I chose to do," he wrote in the letter to Turnbull. "My treatment has helped me understand why I did what I did, and I work everyday towards moving past this low point in my life. The tools I have acquired in treatment help me keep myself safe so that I never make another bad decision like I did in 1998."

The Maryland Sex Offender Registry Web site indicates that Morris was in compliance with the program's requirements.

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com jennifer.mcmenamin@baltsun. com

Sun reporter Annie Linskey contributed to this article.

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