KEITH WHITCOMB JR., Staff Writer
BENNINGTON -- A Cyr Court man accused of hugging and kissing a 15-year-old girl must live under a curfew in Vernon while his case is pending.
Gary Partridge, 43, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Vermont Superior Court to a felony count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. His curfew is from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. at a relative's home in Vernon, but if he is allowed to move back to his Cyr Court residence the court may consider changing the condition.
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Detective Anthony Silvestro, on Dec. 22 he learned that it had been reported to the Department of Children and Families that a 15-year-old girl had been kissed and touched against her will.
Silvestro interviewed the girl on Jan. 8. She said she had gone to Cyr Court with her mother to retrieve a relative, and while there she was left alone in a room with a man later identified as Partridge, and a male she believed to be mentally disabled. While the girl was playing with a nearby pet, Partridge asked her for a hug. She agreed and hugged him, but he kept asking her for more. The hugs were lengthy and tight, and after a while Partridge stopped asking permission and hugged her on his own. He asked her if she had a boyfriend, and she told him she did. The girl said this made her uncomfortable. Partridge then asked her to look at him and went to kiss her, but she turned her head and was kissed on the cheek, according to the affadavit.
She told police she "felt like she wanted to scrape her face off," and that Partridge said, "You're not going to tell anyone right because that is not a big problem right."
Partridge then moved away from her and began taking photos of her using a mobile device. The girl said she felt as though the photos were being taken of her from the neck down.
After she and her mother left, they went to the State Police barracks in Shaftsbury, where the girl wrote a statement about what happened.
On Jan. 14 Bennington Police searched the house where Partridge was living as they had been granted a search warrant for the mobile device. Partridge initially denied hugging the girl, then admitted to having asked for one hug. He also admitted to hugging her once, then said it was multiple times. He denied trying to kiss her, but eventually admitted that, too. He told police he was just trying to be friendly and was in the "Christmas mood."
He wrote a statement apologizing to the girl for scaring her.
The affidavit did not say what the results of the search warrant were.
If Partridge is convicted of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, he could face between two and 15 years in prison.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.