Day care provider linked to child porn

Posted June 10, 2010, at 11:37 a.m.
Walter Ramsdell of Eddington. (Photo curtesy of Penobscot County Jail)
Walter Ramsdell of Eddington. (Photo curtesy of Penobscot County Jail)

EDDINGTON, Maine — A day care provider accused of downloading photos and video showing young children engaged in explicit sex acts was arrested Wednesday by Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit investigators.

Walter Ramsdell III, 39, was the primary caregiver at the Care-A-Lot day care center, which is operated out of the family home on Main Road in Eddington, according to Detective Special Agent Mike McFadden of the state police Computer Crimes Unit. Ramsdell’s wife, Kimberly, holds the license for the center.

The investigation happened quickly, according to McFadden and state police spokesman Stephen McCausland. Ramsdell’s name only came to the attention of members of the computer crimes unit on Tuesday as they were monitoring a “peer-to-peer” network where child pornography is shared, McCausland said in a press release.

Members of the computer crimes unit prepared themselves to search a busy day care center and possibly make an arrest there the next day, McFadden said Thursday morning. But that wasn’t what happened.

“We were surprised that Walter Ramsdell was the only one there, providing care to the toddler who was there,” he said.

McFadden said he learned when police arrived Wednesday morning that many of the children served by the day care use it for before and after-school care. There happened to be only one toddler there for day care service on Wednesday, he said.

Ramsdell was cooperative when police arrived and agreed to let the team “preview” his computer, McFadden said.

Team members found child pornography on the computer that showed children who appeared to be younger than 10 years old, McFadden said.

“He insisted the children [in the day care] were never abused,” the detective said. “Our preliminary search showed that there’s no indication that any of the children depicted in these sexually explicit acts were children at the day care.”

Police seized the computer and arrested Ramsdell, who was charged with possession of sexually explicit material, which is a Class C felony. He was taken to Penobscot County Jail about noon Wednesday.

The children attending the day care and their parents are being interviewed by state police investigators and officials from the Department Of Health and Human Services, which issues day care licenses, McFadden said.

McCausland said that fewer than 10 children use the day care and that most of them are “latchkey kids” who use the facility before and after school while their parents are at work. He didn’t know where the children were from but said he assumed Eddington or a neighboring community such as Brewer.

McFadden wanted to emphasize that Ramsdell’s wife, who apparently works away from home during the day, is not suspected of being involved in the situation “at any level.”

“There’s no suspicion that the wife had any knowledge of this activity,” McFadden said.

He added that police intentionally did not arrest Ramsdell until his wife arrived so that she could care for the toddler and the other children who were to arrive after school.

Ramsdell is scheduled to make his first appearance in court at 1 p.m. Friday at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.

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