Man in child porn probe makes bail

Walter Ramsdell III, 39, (center) is arrested on child pornography charges by State Police Trooper Kyle Ouellette outside Care-A-Lot Day Care in Eddington on Wednesday, June 9, 2010.  At left is Detective Special Agent Mike McFadden of the State Police Computer Crimes Unit, which had been monitoring activity on a network where child pornography is shared, according to the state police. (Photo courtesy of Maine Dept. of Public Safety)
Walter Ramsdell III, 39, (center) is arrested on child pornography charges by State Police Trooper Kyle Ouellette outside Care-A-Lot Day Care in Eddington on Wednesday, June 9, 2010. At left is Detective Special Agent Mike McFadden of the State Police Computer Crimes Unit, which had been monitoring activity on a network where child pornography is shared, according to the state police. (Photo courtesy of Maine Dept. of Public Safety)
Posted June 11, 2010, at 1:33 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A day care provider charged with downloading photos and videos showing pre-pubescent children engaged in explicit sex acts was released on $1,000 cash bail Friday evening, according to a spokesman at Penobscot County Jail.

Walter B. Ramsdell III, 39, of Eddington made his first appearance earlier in the day at the Penobscot Judicial Center on the Class C charge of possession of sexually explicit materials.

District Court Judge Robert Murray set bail at $1,000 cash or $15,000 surety. The jail spokesman did not know who posted the bail.

Conditions of Ramsdell’s release include: no possession or use of computers and random searches for computers; not to return to the Main Road home out of which he and his wife operated a day care center; and not to have contact with children under age 16, except for supervised visits with his own children, ages 6 and 9.

Ramsdell’s criminal history, according to court documents, includes a conviction in 1992 for burglary and theft the previous year in Washington County. He was sentenced to four years in prison with all of it suspended and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. Ramsdell has not been convicted of any subsequent crimes.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 10.

Ramsdell was arrested Wednesday at his Eddington home, which housed the Care-A-Lot day care center, by investigators from the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit, according to court documents. His computer was seized so it could be thoroughly examined by investigators, which could take months.

He came to the attention of investigators monitoring “peer-to-peer” networks where child pornography is shared, R. Christopher Almy, district attorney for Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, said after bail was set. Once they discovered the home where the computer user lived was a day care, police quickly arrested Ramsdell, Almy said at an impromptu press conference outside the courthouse.

Ramsdell allegedly confessed to downloading hundreds and, perhaps, thousands of images and videos of child pornography. He also told investigators he knew that what he was doing was wrong, according to court documents. Ramsdell denied abusing the children in his care.

The day care is licensed to Ramsdell’s wife, Kimberly Ramsdell, who works full time at a Bangor hospital, according to court documents. He appeared to be the primary caregiver in her absence. She is not suspected of being involved in the downloading of child pornography, authorities said.

Through Joe Hunt, the Bangor attorney representing Ramsdell just for Friday’s bail hearing, Ramsdell told the judge that he thought the license for the day care had expired. The defendant also said the day care was no longer in operation.

Judge Murray said that if he had verification that a day care was no longer licensed and no longer being operated out of the Ramsdell home, he would consider allowing the defendant to return there to live if he made bail.

Ramsdell’s wife did not attend Friday’s hearing but several parents of children who stayed at the house before and after school did. They declined to be interviewed by reporters.

When Ramsdell was arrested, one 18-month-old child was in the home, according to court documents. Fewer than 10 children used the day care, Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland said Wednesday, and most of them were at the Ramsdell home before and after school while their parents were at work.

The children who attended the day care and their parents are being interviewed by investigators and officials from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, which licenses day care facilities, authorities said.

If convicted, Ramsdell faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

He also could face child pornography possession charges in U.S. District Court once the forensic analysis of his computer is completed. The length of federal sentences can be increased based on the number and the nature of the images and videos Ramsdell allegedly admitted to downloading.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons also offers sex offender treatment while an individual is incarcerated. In Maine, most people convicted of downloading child pornography are unable to get treatment until after they have been released, often as a condition of probation.

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