Police charge Region Two instructor with unlawful sexual assault
HOULTON, Maine — Houlton Police Department officers have arrested a longtime southern Aroostook County educator on multiple accounts of unlawful sexual contact following a weeklong investigation.
Houlton Police Chief Tim DeLuca said Monday that officers arrested James J. Rochford, 75, on Thursday, Jan. 25, and charged him with three counts of unlawful sexual contact, one count of furnishing a place for minors to consume alcohol and one count of furnishing liquor to a minor. Police released no further details.
“This investigation is of extremely deep concern for our community,” Chief DeLuca said. “We received a contact last week via social media about a potential victim that was allegedly sexually molested. We started looking into this immediately and reached out to the victim.”
As police conducted their investigation, additional victims began to emerge. The chief declined to say exactly how many victims there were, but did say that the investigation is continuing. The chief described the victims as young adult males.
The Houlton Police, in conjunction with the Aroostook County District Attorney’s Office, received an arrest warrant for Rochford, who was taken into custody without incident, the chief said.
Rochford is an educational technician at the Region Two School of Applied Technology and taught in RSU 29 and Southern Aroostook Community School for a number of years.
“As many of you are aware from media reports, there have been allegations of an inappropriate relationship between a CTE Region Two employee and a minor,” said David Keaton, director for Region Two. “While I appreciate that this type of allegation is extremely unsettling and causes great concern to parents, students and community members, I cannot comment further on the specifics because of the need to respect the rights of the individuals involved and the confidentiality laws surrounding minor and personnel matters.
Keaton said the school has taken steps to ensure the students’ safety.
“I can assure you that matters of this sort are taken very seriously by the Region,” he continued. “Our utmost concern is the safety and well-being of our students. When necessary, an employee would be removed from school premises and placed on administrative leave. We would alert appropriate local and state agencies and conduct our own investigation.
“The fact that we may place an employee on administrative leave does not indicate guilt, but rather allows the district to ascertain the facts as best we can while ensuring the safety of all,” Keaton added. “We thank the community for its understanding.”
“Although we are sensitive to the unsettling nature of the allegations, we are treating this with the utmost confidentiality to maintain the integrity of the investigation,” Chief DeLuca said. “We have notified the area superintendents as a precaution, because it is a regional school program. Measures have been taken to safeguard our youth currently attending the Region Two School of Applied Technology.”
The chief said police and Region Two have taken precautions to ensure Rochford has no contact with any of the victims at the school. He added there was some concern that the case might reveal additional incidents with additional victims dating back several years.
“Victims are coming forward, and we encourage anyone who may have been a victim or witness to reach out to us,” Chief DeLuca said. “We are sympathetic to the victims’ privacy. I have zero tolerance for this in our community.”
The chief added anyone with information about this case should contact the Houlton Police Department at 532-2287 or via their Facebook page.
“I would consider Mr. Rochford to be a predator,” Chief DeLuca added. “We know that he is targeting younger adults. These types of crimes in particular will not be tolerated in our community and aggressive investigations and prosecutions will be pursued. We will use all means and resources to protect our youth and community against these types of predators.”
Det. Steve Nason is the lead investigator for the case, with assistance from patrolman Jasmine Cyr.
Rochford was taken to the Aroostook County Jail and was later released on $2,000 unsecured bail with conditions. Attempts to determine when Rochford would next appear in court were not successful.