Shoreham man charged with sex crimes

MIDDLEBURY — A Shoreham man pleaded innocent on Tuesday in Addison Superior Court, criminal division, to three separate sex-related crimes in connection with allegations that he inappropriately touched two juvenile girls and also photographed one of them while she was taking a shower. Both of the alleged victims are family members.
Christopher Welch, 44, was released on several conditions — including that he not have contact with the alleged victims nor go near areas where children typically congregate — following his court appearance. He was charged with a felony count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child; a felony count of possession of child pornography; and a misdemeanor count of voyeurism.
Court documents surrounding the case identify the alleged victims by initials, and as being 16 and 15 years old, respectively. The Addison Independent does not identify the victims in sexual assault cases and will not in this case identify the victims by either their initials nor their specific family relationship with Welch.
It was in late May that Det. Lt. Ruth Whitney of the Addison County Unit for Special Investigations and Jonathan Cicchini, an investigator with the Vermont Department of Children & Families, interviewed one of the alleged victims.
The 16-year-old girl alleged that Welch had been touching her breasts, over and under her clothing, “on almost a daily basis” for the past two or three years, according to court records. The girl also alleged that Welch would sometimes walk into the bathroom when she was in the shower and she would have to stay in the shower because he wouldn’t leave, Whitney states in her affidavit.
Authorities also interviewed the 16-year-old girl’s boyfriend, who alleged he had been told that Welch had taken nude pictures of her while she was in the shower and that Welch had allegedly touched the breasts of the 15-year-old girl who is also a family member, according to court documents. He added he had been told that Welch had also allegedly placed a sex toy in the 15-year-old girl’s bed, according to Whitney’s affidavit.
Whitney reported interviewing Welch on May 28. During that interview, Welch allegedly admitted to touching the 16-year-old girl “probably a few times.”
“He said that people would think it was molestation, but he was tickling (the girls), not fondling them and there was no sexual gratification,” Whitney’s affidavit states. Welch described the activity as a “brush” against their breasts and not a grabbing scenario, according to court records.
“At this point, Welch advised that he was digging himself into a hole and was going to stop talking,” Whitney said of the conclusion to the interview.
On June 4, Cicchini again interviewed Welch, who allegedly admitted to having “left his cell phone in the bathroom one time and somehow many full frontal naked photos (of the second girl) ended up on his phone and he did not delete them. He had no explanation as to how this happened,” the affidavit states.
On June 3, Det. Sgt. Peter Newton of the Addison County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant on Welch, his vehicles and his home, according to court records. Newton seized cell phones, digital cameras, 35mm film, a computer and several adult sex toys, according to the court affidavit.
“The electronic equipment has yet to be analyzed to determine the content, however based on Welch’s statement that there are full frontal nude photographs of (one of the girls) on his cell phone, there is probable cause to believe that he was in possession of child pornography on that date the phone was seized,” the affidavit states.
Addison County Deputy State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans is prosecuting the case. Welch is being represented by Middlebury attorney Peter Langrock.
Welch is due to next appear in court for a status conference on the case on July 27.

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