BELLINGHAM - A Bellingham man has been charged with molesting a toddler at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
After claiming several times he couldn't remember touching the girl - but never denying it - Gilbert Ray "Butch" Hannah, 64, admitted to police he put his hand under her tights, according to charging documents filed last week in Whatcom County Superior Court. He told police it was an accident.
According to prosecutors, Hannah took an interest in two young girls soon after showing up for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in early January. He told the victim's grandmother the hot chocolate served at the meeting was too warm for a young girl.
He offered to go to the other room and bring her some paper towels, possibly to wrap her cup in. When he got out of sight of the other adults, prosecutors allege, he reached under the toddler's skirt.
The only witness, the older girl in the room, told an adult what had happened right after the meeting. Two attendees described Hannah - a 5-foot-8 white man in his 60s with a mustache and gray hair - to police.
Detectives spoke with Hannah, a resident of Kelly Road, at the Bellingham Police Department in February. At first he said he went into the room carrying paper towels, but he couldn't remember touching the girl. Then he said he patted her on the head and chest. Eventually, he confessed to touching the girl under her tights, but said "once he realized where his hand was," he got scared and pulled his hand away, according to the charges.
In the Bellingham police blotter, he continued, he'd seen a sex crime was reported that night in the same block as the meeting. So from then on, "every time he saw a police car he thought they were coming for him," wrote Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey.
Hannah was arrested about a week after the police interview but has since posted $25,000 bond, according to jail records. He has no criminal history in Washington state.
Prosecutors charged him with first-degree child molestation.
A woman who picked up the phone at his listed number said he wasn't home. She said, "He's totally innocent," then hung up.