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Sex abuse allegations linked to breakup, lawyer claims

An Epsom woman charged with sexually assaulting her stepson was wrongfully accused during a contentious divorce in which she filed for custody of her children, according to her lawyer.

Deborah Furst, who works as a tutor at Henniker’s New England College, was first indicted in September for sexually assaulting the now 10-year-old boy, according to court documents. Three new Merrimack County Superior Court indictments for aggravated felonious sexual assault were handed down last week, and Furst is now accused of assaulting the boy numerous times from 2006, when he was 3 years old, through November 2012.

But the woman’s lawyer, Robert Hunt, said yesterday that the allegations only came to light after Furst and her wife, who had been in a relationship for more than 30 years, filed for a divorce. Furst sought full custody of the couple’s two children, whom her wife had legally adopted and who Furst is a stepmother to, according to Hunt. Hunt said that in documents related to the custody dispute Furst described being a primary caregiver to the kids while her wife worked a full-time job.

“And that is when the (sexual assault) allegations came up,” he said.

He said Furst has cooperated fully with officials, volunteering to give statements to the police, prosecutors and the state’s Division for Children, Youth and Families.

“The allegations have destroyed her life, have taken her away from her children.
. . . It’s horrific what it’s done to her psychologically and mentally,” Hunt said. “But frankly her primary concern through all of this has been what these false allegations are doing to the children.”

Hunt said he plans to take the case to trial and said he’s confident a jury will recognize discrepancies in the boy’s story between interviews he completed in May 2012, before the first charges were filed, and in September 2012, before the latest indictments.

The state says Furst touched the boy’s buttocks and penis for the purpose of sexual arousal several times between January 2006 and October 2010 in Bradford, then touched his penis several times between November 2010 and November 2012 in Concord and Newbury. One indictment alleges specifically that Furst touched the boy’s penis “with her hand by the rock while gardening” sometime between November 2010 and November 2012 in Bradford.

In documents filed in court, the boy’s adoptive mother told a DCYF employee her son first told her about the alleged abuse in May, saying Furst would touch him both on top of and below his clothes while sitting on a couch in their living room. The boy said he hadn’t told his mother about the abuse because he didn’t want to get Furst in trouble, according to the mother’s account.

The mother said she asked her son if she wanted to talk to a man about the abuse, then took him to speak to the principal at his school, a person who he trusted.

The principal reported the abuse to DCYF and the Bradford Police Department, according to a court documents. In his statement to the police, the principal said that the boy told him the assaults happened when he was between 5 and 7 years old.

In court motions, Furst’s lawyer raises what he sees as discrepancies between the principal’s report, the mother’s account and the charges, such as when the abuse took place and who was present when the principal spoke to the child.

Furst is scheduled to be arraigned on the new indictments Jan. 16. Merrimack County Attorney Scott Murray declined to comment about the ongoing case.

A New England College official confirmed yesterday that Furst works there and said she was placed on voluntary paid leave as of Thursday, when the school first learned of the charges.

The official declined to comment further on Furst’s employment. But an archived biography on the school’s website says Furst is a tutor at the school’s library. Furst, according to the biography, is a lawyer and taught legal studies for 10 years at a liberal arts college. It says she worked in nonprofit human service organizations and has experience in legal writing.

Thomas Trevethick, general counsel to the state attorney discipline office, confirmed yesterday that Furst is a lawyer, having been licensed in the early 1990s. Trevethick said he was not aware of the charges and said he has no record of public complaints against Furst.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @tricia_nadolny.)

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