KEITH WHITCOMB JR., Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A local man has been charged with having lewd contact with two teenage girls who ran away from Bennington School in January.

Dale V. Miller, 55, pleaded not guilty last week to two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct, and two misdemeanor counts each of unlawfully sheltering a runaway child, and furnishing alcohol to a minor. He posted a $5,000 deposit on a $50,000 bail bond and must abide by a curfew at a home on Walloomsac Road. He is not allowed contact with females under 18 years old and is not allowed to go to the Bennington School, a boarding facility for children and teenagers who have suffered developmental trauma.

According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Detective Anthony Silvestro, on Jan. 11 two girls, ages 16 and 17, walked off the school’s Vail Campus and were reported missing. On Jan. 13, the 16-year-old was dropped off at her parents house in Barre, and it was learned the 17-year-old was dropped off in Springfield, Mass. The 16-year-old reported to the Vermont Department for Children and Families that she had been sexually assaulted by a man she identified as Miller.

The 16-year-old told police that on Jan. 11 she and the other girl left the Vail Campus on Vail Road and walked to the Hampton Inn in Bennington. They flagged Miller down in the parking lot while he was in his vehicle and he asked them about them not having shoes. They said they had run away from the Bennington School and asked if he was a "cop caller." He said he was not and let them stay in his hotel room at the Hampton Inn.

The 16-year-old girl said Miller provided them with alcohol and they spent the night after he lent them clothing and let them use the room’s shower. The next day he took them to Walmart and bought them shoes, then went to buy beer and cigarettes. While Miller was out getting lunch, the girls were smoking in the room and were told to leave by staff.

The 16-year-old said they went to Miller’s home, then the 17-year-old asked to be taken to a friend’s house in Springfield. They dropped her off there, then went back to Miller’s home. The girl said she laid down on the floor atop a blanket, then Miller laid down with her. He had removed his clothes. She said he touched her several times and got her to touch him. She described routinely denying his advances and finally he stopped.

The girl told police Miller had also taken pictures of her with his phone.

On Jan. 20 State Police in Middlesex located the 17-year-old with Miller when he was pulled over. She told police the same story the 16-year-old told as far as how they came to meet Miller and stay at the hotel. After she was dropped off in Springfield, she called Miller to have him come get her, which he did. She told police Miller made a number of sexual comments and propositions to her, and grabbed her breast. He became upset when she refused him, then he asked for nude photos of her and offered to pay for them.

Miller was interviewed on Jan. 22 and his story about how he met the girls was the same as theirs. He was at the Hampton Inn because his parents were there. He said he felt like a father to the girls and acted fatherly toward them. He admitted to letting them drink alcohol, and said they told him they were being abused at the school they had run away from. Miller admitted to kissing the 16-year-old, but said it was not sexual. He admitted to taking pictures of her as well, but those were not sexual either. He denied doing anything illegal with the 17-year-old.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.