Family counseling center employee accused of fondling Westerville child

Local News

A Columbus man is behind bars after he was accused of fondling a child under the age of 13.

According to a police report, the Westerville Division of Police received a referral from Franklin County Children’s service regarding the possible sexual abuse of a juvenile. Court documents allege Matthew Gatton, 33, fondled the child while the child was taking a bath on multiple occasions.

According to police, Gatton admitted to touching the child on two occasions while the child was bathing in a voluntary interview on May 25. On May 29, Gatton returned to the Westerville Division of Police for a second voluntary interview, in which he admitted to touching the child between “20 to 50 times.”

The victim told police the incidents occurred almost every week between Jan. 1, 2018 and May 2, 2018.

Gatton turned himself into Westerville Police on Monday. He was arrested and charged with two counts of gross sexual imposition. He will be arraigned in Franklin County Municipal Court on Tuesday.

The child’s mother, who wants her identity concealed to protect her family, said at first she did not believe what she was hearing, because her 11-year-old son has a mental disability.

“He has delusions, and he’s had times where he thinks something has happened and it hasn’t, or he’s seen things that aren’t there.”

She added once she found out what happened her feelings changed.

“I was angry. I was betrayed. I mean this is somebody that comes in our home three, four days a week and is supposed to be helping, and here he is just bringing more problems to my baby.”

She said after the allegations, she is trying to restore the damage done to her child.

“He doesn’t want to talk about it. He just kind of shuts down, and he’s having a hard time trusting people.”

Now this mother wants justice not only for her son but any of Gatton’s other potential victims.

 “He’s been in contact with so many kids and if he’s done this to anyone else, I just want them to step forward. I just want him out of children’s lives.”

Gatton  was employed as a community-based paraprofessional with OhioGuidestone, a family counseling agency. Lisa Clark, the executive director of Central OhioGuidestone, issued the following statement:

We recently became aware of possible inappropriate actions by a community-based paraprofessional employee in Columbus while he was working with a youth receiving services from our organization. We immediately suspended the employee pending the outcome of an investigation by Franklin County Children Services, and he has not returned to work for the agency since the date of his suspension. Based on information we recently received from the Westerville police, we immediately terminated the employee.

We continue to work closely with Westerville police and are offering them our full cooperation and assistance.

We hold all of our employees to strict standards of behavior. All employees are required to be trained on our Abuse and Neglect policy and our extensive Client Rights policy based on Ohio law. Any staff member who violates those policies is subject to immediate dismissal and subsequent prosecution under Ohio law.

We do everything in our power to ensure that every person who comes into contact with the people we serve is safe, trustworthy and beyond reproach. Prior to employment, every employee is thoroughly vetted and screened through extensive background checks in accordance with Ohio state law. If there is a finding on the background check, we do not hire them.

Our number one priority is the health, safety and well-being of the people we serve. Nothing is more important to us. We maintain and strictly enforce a zero-tolerance policy for any actions or behavior to the contrary.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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