Lawyer: Mom charged with abusing son cleared by DCYF
The state Division of Children, Youth and Families has reversed its finding that Deborah Furst sexually assaulted her son after noting substantial inconsistencies in the child’s statements, according to a court filing by her lawyer. But the criminal case against the Epsom woman, which hinges on the word of that now 10-year-old boy, is continuing.
Furst’s attorney, Robert Hunt, said he has corresponded with the Merrimack County Attorney’s Office about the results of the DCYF appeal. He called it “surprising” that the office hasn’t considered dropping the criminal charges, mainly because the division has a much lower burden of proof than prosecutors will face at Furst’s trial.
“It’s an easier burden for (DCYF),” Hunt said. “They failed to meet it. That’s just a fact.”
But Merrimack County Attorney Scott Murray said prosecutors make decisions based on the evidence in front of them, not the decisions of other agencies. He called DCYF’s finding “irrelevant” to the charges brought by his office, which accuse Furst of abusing her son numerous times from 2006, when he was 3 years old, through November 2012.
Murray declined to say whether prosecutor Rachel Harrington has reviewed the division’s decision.
“I have no idea what DCYF based their decision on, who specifically made their decision,” Murray said. “We have to go on the basis of the evidence that’s presented to us by investigators.”
Furst, who worked as a tutor at New England College before the charges were brought, has been accused of touching her son’s buttocks and penis numerous times in Concord, Newbury and Bradford over a six-year period. Furst is the child’s stepmother; her wife legally adopted him.
The charges came in two batches, the first in September 2012 and then others following in January, after the boy sat down for another recorded interview with the Child Advocacy Center, the county office where minors are often interviewed in relation to criminal investigations, according to Hunt.
Hunt has previously called the timing of the accusations suspicious. And while he said he is barred from talking about the particulars due to a court order in Furst’s divorce proceeding, he has said before that the boy initially reported being abused just a few weeks after Furst filed for full custody of her two children.
Hunt has said in court that Furst’s estranged wife, Judy Parys, had sole custody of their children at that time.
Records from DCYF’s administrative appeals unit are not public, but Hunt referenced the process in a motion filed at Merrimack County Superior Court. He said the division issued a finding in July 2012 that Furst had sexually assaulted her son. That finding was appealed and reversed on April 2, according to Hunt, who wrote in his filing that the decision seemed to be heavily based on the inconsistent statements given by the child in his two recorded interviews with the Child Advocacy Center.
Those interviews have been submitted as possible evidence in Furst’s criminal proceeding, according to Hunt. He’s noted, though, that portions he believes would be favorable to Furst were redacted from a transcript provided by the prosecutor.
Hunt wants the jury to see the interviews in their entirety. And he’s asked a judge to give that permission prior to the start of the trial.
“We believe that a jury should be permitted to draw its own conclusions on whether the allegations are true based in part on the inconsistencies between the alleged victims’ two recorded statements and the questionable nature of some of the new allegations,” he said.
Harrington has yet to object to that motion, and Murray declined to say yesterday whether she planned to.
At a hearing last month, where Hunt was arguing for the right to depose Furst’s wife, the attorney told a judge that the boy’s story changed between the two interviews in relation to where the abuse happened. At first he said it happened in the same place each time, but later he claimed Furst also touched him at restaurants while Parys was present, according to Hunt.
The attorney said the indictments also accuse Furst of abusing the boy during a seven-month period when she had no contact with her son.
The case is scheduled to go to trial next month, though the prosecutor has filed a motion to push that date back. Hunt has objected, citing in his motion that the criminal matter has delayed Furst’s divorce case and caused her to experience “substantial anxiety.” He also said that as long as the divorce proceeding is halted, Furst’s son “will remain in the environment which, from (her) perspective, led him to make the false allegations.”
Hunt raised concern that the child will continue to be subjected to the “ongoing outside influence” that led to the accusations.
A judge has yet to rule on that motion.