GREENFIELD — An Indianapolis man accused of molesting a girl at a local campground can stand trial despite a defense attorney’s argument he suffers from a mental disability, a judge ruled.
Judge Richard Culver ordered this week that Thomas Welch, 25, 519 N. Hamilton Ave., Indianapolis, should stand trial before a local jury.
Welch’s attorney, Christopher Smith of Greenfield, expressed concerns late last year that the defendant, who faces a Level 1 felony count of child molest, had a cognitive disability.
Smith told the judge in December his client has trouble communicating, making it difficult to understand his side to the story. Smith believes it is evidence of a disorder Welch’s family members told investigators the man has, which could complicate building a defense for the the man, according to court documents.
Smith asked that Welch be evaluated by two doctors. Their reports were returned earlier this year; because they contain Welch’s medical information, the documents were not publicly released.
A hearing on the matter was conducted earlier month, and it was left up to Culver to make the final determination on whether Welch was competent to stand trial.
The judge announced his decision Thursday in an order filed with the county clerk’s office. He ordered Welch’s trial to remain on the calendar for Oct. 24.
Welch was arrested in August 2016 amid allegations he followed a young girl into a restroom at S & H Campground in Greenfield and touched her inappropriately, court records show.
Welch and his family were visiting the county campground, 2573 W. County Road 100N, in late July. He had been swimming at a pool there with the victim and about 15 other kids before the alleged incident occurred, 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.
Welch faces a Level 1 felony count of child molesting – the highest-level criminal charge allowed for such a crime. Should he be found guilty at trial, Welch could serve a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
Welch is being held in the Hancock County Jail on $50,000 cash bond.