Brett Bartolotta, 42, was a volunteer firefighter and Frank Meyer, 39, a 911 dispatcher. But these Connecticut first responders had a secret. They were allegedly grooming a young Vermont boy to participate in their sexual fantasies.
"This is a tremendous violation of trust," said Tom Powell, a forensic psychologist. "This is not the way adults are supposed to act toward kids."
In the close-knit community of Ludlow, many knew and liked Bartolotta.
"I'm shocked because that's never the person I thought he was," said Suzanne Strong of Ludlow.
Bartolotta would travel from Connecticut to his Ludlow condo before becoming a full-time Cavendish resident about a decade ago. Strong says Bartolotta frequented the convenience store where she works.
"I thought he was a very nice guy," Strong said. "I had no idea. I don't think anybody in town did because everyone has been talking about it."
Police say Bartolotta first lured the boy to his Ludlow condo when he was 12 years old, forcing him to perform bondage and group sex acts in exchange for cash and gifts. The boy told police Bartolotta was like a father to him.
"If you have an adult who is playing the role well, it's pretty easy to get a 12-year-old boy to hang out with you, want to be with you, admire you and develop strong, positive feelings toward you," Powell said.
Powell says this may explain why the victim remained silent about the abuse for the next 12 years.
"The kid comes to believe that telling on the adult is to essentially tell on himself," Powell said.
Eventually, police say Bartolotta invited his friend Frank Meyer to join in the abuse. Police say Meyer also paid the boy for sexual favors. Investigators call the case disturbing.
"The abuse of a minor the fact that he was robbed of his childhood," Vt. State Police Det. Sgt. Barbara Zonay said.
The victim told police he had up to 400 sexual encounters with Meyer before he was 16 and twice as many with Bartolotta. Prosecutors charged the men with aggravated sex assault, slave trafficking and prostitution. Allegations they both deny.
Bartolotta was released on $50,000 bail. Friday afternoon he answered the door to his Cavendish home and told us he was advised not to speak to the media. He says at this point he's just focused on getting himself a lawyer.
Reporter Jennifer Reading: Do you think there could be other victims... in Vermont? In other states?
Det. Sgt. Barbara Zonay: That's definitely a possibility and we're looking into it, and the investigation is continuing.
It appears Meyer also made bail. The men are scheduled to return to court in two weeks.
Police told me this case is far from over. Vermont investigators are now working with Connecticut authorities looking for potential victims or witnesses in both states. They say the men could face additional charges if more evidence surfaces. Time is obviously not on their side. They say getting witnesses to remember decade-old details can be challenging. The victim, however, agreed to wear a wire during a sting operation. Meyer was allegedly caught on tape reminiscing about old sexual experiences with the victim. And police say Bartolotta confessed to having a sexual relationship with the boy when pressed by investigators working the case.
Thursday, May 23 2013 9:57 AM EDT2013-05-23 13:57:59 GMT
Four colleges, including Dartmouth, are now facing federal complaints over their handling of rape allegations. Other colleges facing complaints include Swarthmore College, University of Southern California,More >>
Four colleges, including Dartmouth, face federal complaints over their handling of rape allegations.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 10:02 AM EDT2013-05-23 14:02:01 GMT
A Townshend man will be in court for breaking into a house and making himself at home. Police say last Friday and again on Wednesday, they caught 34-year-old Jesse Johnson living in another man's homeMore >>
A Townshend man will be in court for breaking into a house and making himself at home.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 10:07 AM EDT2013-05-23 14:07:20 GMT
Montreal officials say the water in most of the city is unsafe to drink Thursday morning. A boil order has been issued through mid-day Thursday. They report ongoing work at the country's second largestMore >>
Montreal officials say the water in most of the city is unsafe to drink due to bacteria concerns.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 10:09 AM EDT2013-05-23 14:09:44 GMT
Another major Vermont brand is suing over trademark infringement. Magic Hat Brewing says the logo for Kentucky-based West Sixth Brewing is a rip-off of their Number 9 beer label. Magic Hat argues theMore >>
Another major Vermont brand is suing over trademark infringement.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 8:04 AM EDT2013-05-23 12:04:45 GMT
A Bennington developer has won the permits he needs to restart a 200-year-old hydro power dam. Bill Scully bought the old Vermont Tissue Mill back in 2008, and that's when he started his quest to reviveMore >>
A Bennington developer has won the permits he needs to restart a 200-year-old hydro power dam.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 5:16 AM EDT2013-05-23 09:16:34 GMT
New Hampshire's House says a casino isn't in the cards for the state. The House killed a bill that would have allowed 5,000 video slot machines and 150 table games at a single casino, most likely at aMore >>
New Hampshire's House says a casino isn't in the cards for the state.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 8:07 AM EDT2013-05-23 12:07:16 GMT
A new study stays teen birth rates have hit an all-time low across the country. The authors of this study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention call it amazing. Some states saw as much asMore >>
A new study stays teen birth rates have hit an all-time low across the country.More >>
Thursday, May 23 2013 5:25 AM EDT2013-05-23 09:25:30 GMT
A Williston car dealership is revved up about education. So, it's letting some schools drive off with some money. As part of its Drive for Education Program, Berlin City Auto Group just donated more thanMore >>
A Williston car dealership is revved up about education. So, it's letting some schools drive off with some money.More >>