YARMOUTH — A John Howland Drive resident is scheduled to go on trial in July on a charge of gross sexual assault of a girl under the age of 14.
Ronald G. Thurston III was indicted on the Class A charge March 8 by a Cumberland County grand jury. An indictment is a determination that enough evidence exists to prosecute, not a finding of guilt.
Court files in Portland show Thurston allegedly befriended the victim on the Internet before meeting her in person.
According to an affidavit filed by South Portland Police Officer Christopher Todd, Thurston allegedly exchanged text messages with the child, then picked her up at her South Portland home.
Todd alleged Thurston then drove to a parking lot near the Portland International Jetport and assaulted his victim, although court records indicate no force or weapon was used.
Statements from the alleged victim and two of her friends indicate the assault occurred in August, but the indictment lists the date of the offense as on or about July 21.
Todd’s affidavit said the allegation against Thurston was not revealed until January, when a student at Westbrook High School told Westbrook Police Officer Ryan Close what she knew about the incident. Close is the school’s resource officer.
The student knew Thurston and the alleged victim, and her account was corroborated by another student, leading to an investigation by Close and South Portland and Yarmouth police.
The students acquainted with the alleged victim said Thurston was known to keep photos of underage girls in files on his cell phone. A search of his home by police turned up illicit photos in files stored on several electronic devices, Todd said.
Thurston’s court-appointed attorney, Joseph Mekonis of Saco, asked for an inpatient evaluation for his client before his Superior Court trial, which is scheduled for July 23. Mekonis wants Thurston to be evaluated for cognitive development, impulse control comprehension and diminished capacity, according to his motion.
Mekonis filed his motion for the evaluation based in part on confidential records Thurston’s parents provided, according to court documents.
If convicted, Thurston faces up to 30 years in prison and lifetime placement on the Maine Sex Offender Registry.
Ronald G. Thurston III