SANTA FE — The husband of a woman who operated a home-based, after-school child care service is charged with sexually assaulting a 4-year-old who was under his wife’s care, sheriff’s investigators said.
Thomas Joseph Perthuis, 76, was arrested Tuesday and charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, Capt. Barry Cook of the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office said.
The child first reported of the assault in February after a school counselor interviewed her, Cook said.
The girl’s mother, who is a teacher in Santa Fe, went to a school counselor and reported that her daughter was acting strangely and had made worrisome comments, Cook said. The counselor interviewed the girl who “disclosed what happened and where,” Cook said.
Santa Fe school district police then called the sheriff’s office.
Just as sheriff’s investigators were set to launch the investigation, Perthuis checked himself into a hospital for a mental evaluation, which delayed the investigation, Cook said.
Investigators interviewed Perthuis on Monday and arrested him on the sexual assault charge. Based on interviews with other children who were cared for at the house in the 4500 block of Tower Road in Santa Fe, there may be other victims, Cook said.
Perthuis was in the Galveston County jail on $100,000 bond.
Investigators said Wednesday they didn’t suspect Perthuis’s wife was aware of any wrongdoing involving the children in her care.
However, Paula Laurendine’s child care service was operating illegally because it was not registered with the state, said Gwen Carter, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Even small, in-house child care operations are required to register with the state, she said.
While such operations are not inspected or licensed, the state does conduct criminal background checks on the operators and keeps track of them should there be any complaints, “to make sure children are safe,” Carter said.
Because of the sexual assault allegations, the state also is investigating Laurendine’s operation, Carter said.
Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.