Accuser's Mother Fears Alleged Molester Next Door

Accused child molester returns to neighborhood where lewd acts allegedly took place

By Lauren Steussy and Tony Shin
|  Tuesday, Feb 7, 2012  |  Updated 7:34 AM PDT
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Accused Child Molester Pleads Not Guilty

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71-Year-Old Man Accused of Sexual Assault of Minor

One-time Commodore of the Coronado Yacht Club, Thomas Garrett, was booked into jail Friday on three charges relating to the sexual assault of a minor, according to jail records.
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The man accused of molesting a South Bay girl was released from jail late Monday night.

Thomas Garrett, a former Commodore of the Coronado Yacht Club and retired firefighter, pled not guilty on Monday to charges of sexual assault on a minor in a Chula Vista Courthouse.

He posted a $350,000 bond.

Garrett, 71, was arrested on Feb. 3 and charged with forcible lewd act on a victim under 14 years old  and one charge for a lewd act on a child. The child he is accused of molesting lives next door to him in Chula Vista.

More than 60 people showed up in support of Garrett on Monday afternoon in the courthouse. They said the charges were outside his character. In the past, he's been involved with local charities.

Later, at his home in Chula Vista, the accuser's mother spoke exclusively to NBC 7 San Diego. She said she's not pleased with the legal situation. She feels as though her family has been put in jail instead since they now have to live next door to the man who they say forced their daughter to place her hands on his genitals.

Since there's no physical evidence to charges such as that one, the court has to rely on what the girl said.

The judge ordered Garrett to stay away from the 9-year-old, but allowed him to stay at his home. Prior to the hearing Monday, the accuser's mother said she filed a restraining order against Garrett, but was denied. 

Now, she said, she won't allow her children to play in the front yard.

Garrett's friends say there's nothing to be worried about though.

"I can't believe that the charges are true," said friend Joseph Ascuitto. "I've known [Garrett] for years, and this seems totally inconsistent with the person I know."

Garrett still faces three counts of child molestation and could recieve up to 11 years in prison if convicted.

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