Man accused of molesting girls

GREENFIELD — A 79-year-old man is accused of sexually assaulting neighborhood girls who helped him with his housework, investigators said.

Robert Cooper, 256 Lullaby Court, faces three Level 4 felony counts of child molesting amid allegations from three elementary school-age girls, who told police the man touched them inappropriately when they occasionally visited his home, according to court documents.

Cooper was being held in the Hancock County Jail on a $1,000 cash bond at press time.

Cooper’s family told police neighbors had complained about the man being inappropriate with children, court documents state. When police arrived at their home to question Cooper, a family member said “‘he has a touching problem with little girls,’” police dispatch records show.

Family members told police they were trying to get help for Cooper, who they say has dementia but understood what he had done was wrong, court documents state.

After Cooper harmed them, he told one of the girls “You better not tell anybody that this happened; this is our little secret, or I’ll come get you,” court documents state.

The girls’ parents called 911 in late July after the children came forward, saying Cooper touched them inappropriately outside his home, out of sight of family members who live with him, records show.

During the investigation, three families spoke with police about their daughters, who often played together in the neighborhood near Cooper’s home.

The girls said they would go to Cooper’s home occasionally to help him with gardening or walking his dogs, and he’d pay them in quarters, dimes and nickels, court documents state. Cooper needed their help because he was older and couldn’t do some chores on his own, the victims said.

The girls’ descriptions of the assaults were similar, records show.

The victims told police they never went inside Cooper’s house; each time he’d touched them had been while they were working in the yard, court documents state.

One girl told investigators she’d been riding her bike near Cooper’s house one afternoon when the man called out to her, saying “he liked her in those shorts” and asking if she was wearing underwear, court documents state.

Another girl said Cooper once took her behind the barn of his home and assaulted her, right after thanking her for the work she’d done for him, court documents state.

Police contacted the state’s Adult Protective Services to arrange a meeting with Cooper’s family to see what help could be given for the man’s dementia. One family member told police she was looking for an adult care facility that would provide 24-hour assistance to Cooper and keep him away from children, court records show.

Cooper was arrested Friday evening.

Each Level 4 felony count his faces carries a penalty of two to 12 years.

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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.