A former long-time Bethel foster parent indicted this week on seven counts of child sexual abuse related to a girl whom his wife baby-sat admitted to police that he fondled and otherwise sexually assaulted an untold number of foster children, according to a document filed in Bethel Superior Court.
Authorities now are looking for additional victims.
Peter Tony, 69, and his late wife, Marilyn, served as state-licensed foster parents from 1984 to 1998, according to a sworn statement by Bethel officer Amy Davis. The state substantiated a complaint of sexual abuse in 1998, and they stopped serving as foster parents, the officer said. He wasn't charged criminally in the 1998 case, however.
In a state and region that long has had among the nation's worst rates of child sexual abuse, the case is getting extra attention because of Tony's history as a foster parent.
On Wednesday, Christy Lawton, director of the state Office of Children's Services, said the couple's foster care paper file has been archived and it would take a week or longer to retrieve it. Without the record, she could confirm only that the Tonys had been foster parents years ago.
Marilyn Tony died earlier this month, authorities said.
The child in the new case is a 4-year-old Bethel girl whom Marilyn Tony baby-sat for about a year in the family's home child care, ending in August 2012. The little girl called Tony "Baha." A couple of months after she stopped going there, the little girl asked her grandmother "Why does Baha go like this?" She demonstrated how he molested her, the Bethel investigating officer said in her statement.
In a January interview at the Bethel child advocacy center, the child told Davis that Tony touched her everyday that his wife baby sat her, and that it happened when Marilyn was cooking lunch, the officer said.
Efforts to speak with the officer on Wednesday were unsuccessful. The investigation took months.
Early this month, the little girl's mother wore a wire and confronted Tony about what the child had said.
He told the mother "he was so sorry, and that he didn't mean to harm (the child) but it's an addiction," the police filing said.
At some point -- she didn't have an exact date -- the couple stopped operating their home child care, Bethel District Attorney June Stein said. They weren't licensed day-care providers, according to Marcey Bish, state child care program manager. In Alaska, people can provide day care for up to four children, not counting those related to them, without a license, Bish wrote in an email.
In an interview this month at the Bethel Police Department, Tony admitted fondling the child, the officer's statement said. He also acknowledged sexually assaulting foster children, but didn't know how many and said he couldn't remember their names, Davis wrote.
"Peter said he is not sexually aroused by children and he doesn't know why he sexually assaults children," the officer wrote.
He told the officer he still had access to children and was "trying to correct his urges" by being around other people when children were in the house.
Davis located the victim in the 1998 case, according to her statement. She was 12 at the time. She told the officer she would awake to find Tony touching her, Davis wrote.
Lawton, the Office of Children's Services director, said abuse of foster children should never happen but does. She was speaking after hours and didn't have ready access to department data but said federal regulators have set a high standard for foster care with little tolerance for mistreatment of children taken from their own parents because of abuse or neglect.
Parents who left their children with the Tonys would have had no ready way of knowing that the state had substantiated sexual abuse against Peter Tony.
Bethel police are searching for additional victims and ask anyone with information to contact Davis at the police department, 907-543-3781.
Tony is being held at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Correctional Center on what police said was $100,000 bail. A Bethel grand jury this week handed up an indictment accusing him of three counts of first-degree sexual abuse and four counts of second-degree sexual abuse. Earlier this month, Bethel police filed a two-count charging document against him, but the grand jury added additional charges.
A hearing over whether Tony should be appointed a public defender is set for Thursday in Bethel.
Reach Lisa Demer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4390.