This story was updated at 5:00 p.m. on Oct. 23, 2018.
BENNINGTON — A 66-year-old North Pownal man has been charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl over the course of three years.
Gary Pickard surrendered Monday night at his home after a 7 1/2-hour standoff with Vermont State Police troopers from the Shaftsbury Barracks, police said in a statement. He was sent for a mental health evaluation at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, and has since been held without bail at the Marble Valley Correctional Facility in Rutland.
Pickard, wearing shackles on his hands and feet, was charged in District Court Tuesday with repeated aggravated sexual assault of a child and lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. He faces a minimum of 25 years and a maximum life sentence if convicted of the aggravated sexual assault charge. Judge William Cohen ordered Pickard not to have any contact with anyone under 18 pending trial.
Prosecutors said Pickard the assaults began when the girl was 7. An affidavit filed by the Vermont State Police states the assaults took place in Pickard's home and that Pickard would always check "to make sure no one is around." The juvenile told police that her mother confronted Pickard, who at first denied the accusation and then confessed, indicating he was going to kill himself, the affidavit states.
Pickard told police that he drives a school bus, but "has never touched anyone else inappropriately," the affidavit says. When questioned by police about the duration of time he had been assaulting the victim, the affidavit states Pickard said he had "no reason" to dispute what the victim told police.
Police said they were called in Monday to investigate a reported sexual assault on a child, and that their investigation led them to Pickard's home. The suspect initially refused to come out, but began "limited communication" with troopers, the statement says.
The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union issued the following statement Tuesday morning: “The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union has learned of the arrest on Monday of a North Pownal man employed by the company that the SU contracts with for school bus services.
"The person in question is not an employee of the SVSU or its member districts. The SVSU has no further comment at this time, as the matter is the subject of an active investigation by the Vermont State Police.” Pickard is an employee of Dufour Tours, which is under contract to provide school bus transportation services for the supervisory union.
A call to Dufour Tours was not returned Tuesday.
Pickard is being represented by attorney Kate Lamson of Bennington.
Christie Wisniewski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.