A Hope man is accused of sexually assaulting a child for more than a decade, with the alleged assault beginning when the child was 9 years old.
Thomas W. Shell, 63, was arrested Wednesday by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office on charges of gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact. A judge set bail for Shell at $70,000 worth of real estate on Friday.
The investigation into Shell began in August, when the sheriff’s office received a report from the Department of Health and Human Services of alleged sexual abuse. The alleged victim, who is now 19 years old, has a history of mental disabilities, according to a police affidavit filed in court.
The sexual abuse allegedly began in 2006. She told police that Shell was a longtime family friend, according to the affidavit.
Shell was previously investigated in 2016 for similar allegations brought by the same girl, the affidavit states, but there was not enough evidence at the time to support the allegations.
In investigating the current allegations, police have obtained Facebook messages between the alleged victim and Shell, which include discussions of “past and present sexual encounters they have had,” according to the affidavit.
During a search of Shell’s home, police located a sexual device that the alleged victim claims Shell used to assault her.
Shell denied the claims of assault in 2016. During the current investigation, in an interview with a Knox County detective, Shell admitted to a recent one-time sexual encounter with the alleged victim and “did not argue” the content of the Facebook messages, according to the affidavit.
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 1-800-871-7741.
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