A Vermont prosecutor called it "everyone's worst nightmare": the sexual assault of a vulnerable loved one by someone entrusted to care for them.
The remark by State's Attorney David Cahill of Windsor County followed not guilty pleas by Michael Paton Jr., 22, of Thetford, who is accused of sexually assaulting a woman more than 60 years his elder.
Paton denied one felony charge of sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult and another felony charge of sexual assault.
The woman has dementia and is unable to consent to sexual contact, investigators said.
The news team at necn generally does not identify survivors of sexual assaults or of alleged sexual assaults without their consent.
Paton was promptly fired from Valley Terrace Assisted Living in Wilder when the allegations came to light Monday night. Among his duties, necn has learned, was helping residents get ready for bed, as well as assisting them with other aspects of daily life.
In documents filed with the court, Detective Sgt. Michael Dion of the Vermont State Police said another employee reported seeing Paton pulling up his pants in the bathroom of a woman in her 80s who's "incapable of having a coherent discussion with anyone."
That woman was left face-down in bed with her pants down, the detective wrote.
The coworker got help right away, according to managers of the center, and did the right thing by ensuring the resident got high-level care immediately.
"This is everyone's worst nightmare, when they send a loved relative to an assisted living facility because they just can't live on their own anymore," Cahill said. "We trust caregivers to ensure our loved ones will be treated with respect and dignity, and if the allegations are true, that did not happen in this case."
Dion wrote in police documents filed with the court that Paton told officers his "mind went blank" and that he didn't realize what he did until he heard that other caregiver knocking on the resident's door.
Paton's defense attorney said in open court that his client has been receiving mental health counseling, but did not specify why, nor did he reference whether blackout spells were a reason for the counseling.
Prosecutors filed with the court a statement they said Paton wrote by hand, in which he says he had sex with the dementia patient.
The written statement contains the line, "[I] asked her to lay on the bed and then I had sex with [her]. Heard someone knock and pulled my pants up and realized what I just did."
Despite what police and prosecutors consider an admission, Paton pled not guilty to the charges.
Angela Zizza, the executive director of Valley Terrace, told necn the suspect passed all his background checks before he began working with residents.
Zizza also said the entire staff of the assisted living center is heartbroken over these allegations, because they strive to provide a loving home for residents. The director said right now, she's focusing on providing comfort to all the residents and their families.
Vermont Superior Court Judge Theresa DiMauro ordered Paton jailed without bail pending trial.
He faces the possibility of life in prison if he's convicted.