A Deputy Sheriff in Lincoln County, Maine has gone from being named "Deputy of the Year" to facing felony charges for allegedly sexually abusing minors.
Court documents state Deputy Kenneth Hatch, 46, of Whitefield, Maine, raped three girls under the age of 16 over a 14-year period. Some of the abuse is alleged to have happened in the back seat of his cruiser while on duty.
"My staff is surprised, and in disbelief," said Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett.
Investigators with the Maine Attorney General's Office believe the abuse started when one victim was about six years old. The victim told police Hatch was babysitting her and inappropriately touched her.
Years later, the victim said Hatch started to take her on ride-alongs in his cruiser and started to ask her for sex. She said she initially said no, but he coerced her by offering marijuana.
The victim told investigators that the marijuana was provided in a bag labeled "evidence." She said the sexual assaults sometimes occurred at her house, while her brother was home.
The victim said most of the abuse occurred when she was 14-15 years old.
Two other alleged victims are named in a 22-count indictment. Some of the allegations go back to 1999. All of the alleged victims were under the age of 16 at the time of the abuse.
A family member at Hatch's address in Whitefield declined to comment on the case.
Hatch is on paid administrative leave from the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department as his case proceeds in Knox County. He is expected to appear in court again on August 25th.
"We don't know whether these charges will be substantiated or not," said Sheriff Brackett. "Either way, it's kind of a black eye."
Brackett said these allegations have surfaced during a tough time for law enforcement nationwide, and he is committed to restoring trust in the community.
"It certainly has had an impact on us," he said. "I think there's absolutely some damage done."