GREENFIELD — A local attorney has asked a judge to put his client, who is accused of rape, through a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial.
Thomas Welch, 24, 519 N. Hamilton Ave., Indianapolis, was arrested earlier this year amid allegations he followed a young girl into a restroom at S & H Campground in Greenfield and touched her inappropriately over the summer, court records show.
But Christopher Smith, a Greenfield attorney who was appointed to represent Welch in court, said his client has trouble communicating his side of the story – evidence perhaps of a mental disability Welch’s family members told investigators the man had, according to court documents.
Welch faces a Level 1 felony count of child molesting – the highest-level criminal charge allowed for such a crime.
Welch and his family were visiting the Greenfield campground, 2573 W. County Road 100N, in late July. He had been swimming at the campground pool with the victim and about 15 other kids before the incident happened, records state.
The girl told police Welch followed her into a restroom and forced himself on her, court documents state.
The girl told police Welch said he wasn’t going to hurt her, then he cornered her in the restroom and forced her to engage in sex acts, according to court records.
When the victim returned to her family’s campsite, she was acting differently, according to her parents; her father asked what was wrong, and the girl told her parents what happened, according to court documents.
Welch’s family told police they wanted Welch to speak with a lawyer before he gave a statement regarding the accusations.
Smith was appointed to Welch’s case after Welch had been charged and arrested. Since then, he has met with Welch to discuss the case, Smith wrote in a request to Hancock Circuit Court Judge Richard Culver asking that Welch undergo an evaluation.
But each interaction has been trying, Smith wrote.
“… In the meetings with this attorney, the defendant has been unable to clearly communicate … so said attorney could adequately prepare for the case,” Smith said.
Smith has asked the judge to hire as many as three doctors or psychiatrists at county expense to evaluate Welch. Approval of the request is pending with the court, records show.
Smith told the Daily Reporter he could not comment further on the request because it concerned his client’s mental health.
Welch is being held in the Hancock County Jail on $50,000 cash bond. He expected back in court next month, and a trial for his case is tentatively set to begin on March 14.
Should he be found guilty at trial, Welch could serve a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.