Man accused of molesting child in public bathroom to serve 12 years

GREENFIELD — She signed her note “the mother of a superhero.”

The letter a Greenfield woman penned to the man who assaulted her little boy could never be long enough to describe the pain he caused their family or the anger he brought to their lives when he followed her 7-year-old into a bathroom at Walmart, climbed into a stall with the child and fondled him.

David Paterson doesn’t deserve their forgiveness, the victim’s mother wrote in a letter to the judge, which was read aloud during the 29-year-old Indianapolis man’s sentencing hearing Wednesday.

Paterson will serve a 12-year sentence — the maximum penalty allowed for the Level 4 felony charge he faced, Hancock County Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow ruled.

Paterson pleaded guilty to child molesting — a charge he’d been found guilty of once before — last month when he admitted to harming the boy.

Now, he will spend seven years in a state prison followed by five years on sex-offender probation, Snow ordered.

In her note to the court, the woman called Paterson “a demon” who took away her child’s innocence and sense of safety.

“A child should not be afraid to use the bathroom on their own,” she wrote. “You made me lose trust in the world around me.”

Paterson was arrested in March after the boy told police a stranger climbed into the bathroom stall he was using at the local Walmart and touched him inappropriately.

Investigators used security camera footage from inside Walmart and Paterson’s photo from the state sex offender registry to identify him as a suspect, court records state.

The video showed Paterson entering the restroom around the same time as the boy and leaving the store immediately after the incident occurred, police said.

Paterson’s case gained national attention after being featured on “Nancy Grace.” The case continued to draw headlines as prosecutors and defense attorneys repeatedly argued over the young victim’s testimony and whether the local publicity endangered Paterson’s chance to receive fair treatment in court.

Paterson was put on the sex-offender registry in March 2010 after he pleaded guilty to child molestation in an unrelated case in Hancock County, court records show. He served time on probation as a punishment in that case but violated the terms of his sentence several times because of drug use, prosecutors said in court Wednesday.

Bradley Keffer of Indianapolis, who represented Paterson, asked the judge to let the defendant give probation a second try and allow the man to serve his sentence locally. Paterson admitted to misbehavior — a key to successful rehabilitation, he said — and now needs help to better himself, Keffer said.

Paterson spoke briefly during the hearing, echoing his attorney and telling the judge he is trying to get help.

Deputy Prosecutor John Keiffner told the judge Paterson’s actions shook the entire community’s sense of calm.

“People want to be able to go to Walmart and not worry about people like David Paterson,” Keiffner said.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.