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Palm Coast Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019 3 months ago

Flagler man goes to trial on charges of molesting two young girls

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Thomas Binkley, 62, is accused of molesting the two girls until they were aged 6 and 8.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Two young girls, ages 8 and 10, told a Flagler County jury of four men and four women Jan. 23 that a man who’d been living with their family had molested them.

Both girls, replying on the witness stand to Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark’s questioning mostly with brief answers, confirmed that Thomas Binkley, 62, had touched their genitals over their clothing when he lived with their family in Palm Coast.

Binkley had been a friend of the family before the family invited him in after he began having health and financial problems. 

“[The victims’ family] offered him a place to stay, because he really didn’t have a place to go,” Clark said.

He lived first in a trailer in the family’s backyard. But it didn’t have water or electricity, and when winter approached, the family invited him to stay in a bedroom in the house.

In exchange, he did chores.

He kept doughnuts in his room, and would give them to the kids. He also had a TV in his room, and sometimes the kids would come in to watch.

“Those kids adored the man they knew as ‘Mr. Tommy,’” Clark said. “They spent a lot of time with him.”

Initially, when the kids went into his room, the door remained open, Clark said. 

But, “At some point, that bedroom door was closed,” Clark said. “At first, [the children’s mother] didn’t question it; she didn’t think she needed to.”

But on multiple occasions, the girls said, Binkley had touched them while they were lying on his bed watching TV.

The defense is alleging that any touching was unintentional.

Attorney William Bookhammer, a public defender, told the jury to listen closely when they’re played a recording of Binkley’s alleged confession.

“He invites [the detectives] in, you can hear the TV on in he background, it’s very conversional,” Bookhammer said. “Listen to this interview very closely, not just the statement, but his demeanor …  He’s breaking down, he’s crying, talking about how much he loved these children. ... He said maybe this was two times with each girl, and he said it was accidental.”

The evidence will show, Bookhammer said, “That he did not do these acts for sexual gratification, which is what he’s accused of.”

Binkley came to the FCSO’s attention on July 8, 2016, when the agency received a report that the young girls, then ages 6 and 8, had been sexually molested by him three days before.

The victims’ great grandmother was the first one to realize something was wrong: She saw the younger girl behave in a sexual manner, and when the great grandmother asked her where she’d learned that, the girl said from Binkley.

An FCSO detective got more information from the children’s mother, and, on July 21, the First Coast Child Protection Team interviewed the victims.

Both said that Binkley had rubbed their genitals with his hands over their clothing when they were lying in front of him while watching television, and that he’d done so on multiple occasions. 

 On Jan. 16, 2017, two detectives interviewed Binkley at his home on Forest Park Street in Bunnell. 

They asked him about the nature of his role in the household. He said he got the children ready for school, fed them and made sure that they showered.

Binkley told a detective that the victims would come into his bedroom and lie down on his bed while they all watched movies together as a family. At first, he denied the allegations and said he had no idea why he was being accused. 

“As the conversation went on, Thomas confessed to rubbing the vagina of both victims over their clothing with his hand,” a detective wrote in the charging affidavit. “He stated that this took place twice with each victim. He claimed it was accidental and once he began doing it he would stop because he knew it was wrong.”

The trial is expected to end on Thursday, Jan. 24 or on Friday, Jan. 25.

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