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New sex abuse charges filed against former Bethel foster parent

Prosecutors in Bethel have filed additional charges against a child sexual abuse suspect at the heart of an investigation reaching back 40 years, alleging the abuse of a minor dating back to 1998.

Peter Tony, 69, was arraigned in court Tuesday on three class B charges of molesting a 12-year-old girl in his foster care between January and May 1998. The alleged assaults took place between January 1 and May 8, 1998, and the victim first reported the abuse in May of that year.

Tony was indicted on July 11 on three counts of sexual abuse of a minor, all of which are class B felonies.

The latest charges, added to the seven charges Tony is already facing for child sexual abuse, come after police said in June that Tony was being investigated for crimes dating back to the 1970s. He has been in jail in Bethel since his arrest on June 13 after a six-month investigation. His public defender has withdrawn due to an unspecified conflict of counsel, and he does not currently have a lawyer.

The first seven charges all relate to the alleged abuse of a 4-year-old girl in his late wife's daycare facility between September 2011-August 2012. This brings the total number of victims police have charged Tony with abusing to two.

Tony and his wife, Marilyn, were stripped of their foster care license in May 1998, according to a press release last week from the Department of Health and Human Services. The daycare facility they subsequently opened was not licensed by the state.

Police have indicated they suspect Tony could have abused many other children, and according to an affidavit by Bethel police's investigating officer, Amy Davis, Tony has admitted to police that he does not remember how many children he abused in his daycare facility.

RELATED: SPECIAL COVERAGE OF BETHEL SEX ABUSE INVESTIGATION

Kimberley Bruesch, Tony's stepdaughter, has alleged that he abused her and her two sisters -- both of whom later committed suicide -- in the 1970s. She claimed to have reported her abuse to a Division of Family and Youth Services social worker in 1982, two years before the Tonys were approved for a foster care permit.

Dianna St. Vincent, an Office of Children's Services employee who appeared as a witness for Tony's latest indictment, said Tuesday she was not authorized to speak on the matter. OCS spokeswoman Naomi Harris could not comment on the abuse allegations, citing the pending records release. She could not say whether the 1998 abuse claim led to the termination of the Tonys' foster care license.

Davis' affidavit, which accompanied the initial charges against Tony in June, indicated that the victim in the new, 1998 charges lodged a complaint against him -- contained in Office of Children's Services records -- on May 7 of that year. That complaint was found to be "substantiated," though no charges were filed at the time.

June Stein, district attorney in Bethel, said she could not comment for now on why Tony was not charged with a crime after allegations of abuse were made against him in 1998, or if these allegations were directly linked to the revocation of his foster care license.

The Office of Children's Services remains in the process of reviewing its records on the Tonys' period as licensed foster parents. Alaska Dispatch has requested the release of this information under the freedom of information act.

"Right now (the district attorney's office) is interested in seeing him prosecuted, not why it didn't happen earlier," Stein said.

Contact Eli Martin at eli(at)alaskadispatch.com and Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)alaskadispatch.com

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