News

Arrest made in sex crime

A Bainbridge Island man accused of undressing a 4-year-old girl in an Aquatic Center bathroom on March 26, was charged with first-degree child molestation in Kitsap Superior Court this week.

According to a Bainbridge Police report filed with charging documents in court Wednesday, Michael Joseph Gaffney, 44, followed the girl into a restroom near the Aquatic Center lobby, took off her bathing suit and watched her use the toilet.

The court statement said the child’s mother was waiting at the Aquatic Center’s front desk and became concerned after her daughter had been in the restroom longer than expected.

The report said the mother entered the restroom and confronted Gaffney, who quickly left the scene.

A tip from an acquaintance led to Gaffney’s arrest Tuesday. Aquatic Center staff provided Bainbridge Police with a security tape of the incident.

According to the statement, Gaffney admitted to Bainbridge reserve officer Michael Chamness that he had removed the girl’s bathing suit, but denied any other touching.

The girl’s mother selected a picture of Gaffney from a montage of photos as being the man most closely resembling the suspect she had seen in the restroom, the statement said.

As of Friday, Gaffney remained in Kitsap County Jail on $100,000 bail.

Gaffney was arraigned under an enhanced molestation statute, approved by State Legislature in 2006. The law allows more stringent sentences to be requested in cases involving a victim under the age of 15, if the alleged perpetrator is unknown to the victim and the encounter was sexually motivated.

If convicted, Gaffney would face a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Bainbridge Deputy Police Chief Mark Duncan said his department is still investigating the crime and could not give further details on the case.

But he said island parents should take heed of the incident and should be aware of their children’s surroundings.

“The island is a safe place but it’s not crime free,” Duncan said. “There are people here who you shouldn’t trust.”

Aquatic Center supervisor Jamie Whitney said March 26 was “pretty much a normal day” at the pool complex with many children and parents coming and going for afternoon swimming lessons.

Whitney said there are security cameras throughout the building and pool lifeguard and staff regularly patrol the facility, including bathrooms and dressing areas. Parents are encouraged to be with their children at all times, she said.

“We do everything we can to make sure it is a safe facility,” Whitney said. “We feel this is a very safe place to be.”

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