SILVER SPRING, Md. - A Prince George’s County man who worked in a Silver Spring child care center and as a coach with the Montgomery County Public Schools system has been arrested for sexually abusing a minor, according to authorities.
The Montgomery County Police Department said 38-year-old Thomas Henry Ridges of Chase Terrace in Beltsville, Maryland was taken into custody on Friday.
Detectives said Ridges came into contact with the victim during his role as an employee at Horizon Child Care in Silver Spring. On July 20, investigators said Ridges offered to drive the 16-year-old victim home from the Horizon facility in Silver Spring.
The victim accepted the ride, but Ridges did not drive toward the victim’s home, according to police.
Detectives said Ridges asked the victim if she remembered a time when she was 14 years old and was at a pool as a camper at Horizon’s summer camp program. Ridges told the victim that he had touched her buttocks and that it was purposeful, according to authorities.
The victim said she’d previously believed the touching was accidental.
As Ridges continued driving around, investigators said he attempted to engage the victim in sexual conversation, asked her inappropriate questions about her previous sexual encounters, asked about drinking alcohol as he parked the vehicle in front of a liquor store and asked her to send naked photos of herself to him.
Ridges also propositioned the victim to engage in sexual acts with him during the car ride, according to officials. The victim reported the incident to police on Sept. 5 and Ridges was taken into custody on Friday and charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a minor and a fourth-degree sexual offense.
Ridges has since been released on $5,000 bond.
At the time of the alleged offenses, authorities said Ridges was also a Montgomery County Public Schools paraeducator and a coach for the Springbrook High School boy's junior varsity basketball team.
Springbrook High School sent a note to parents that stated Ridges was placed on administrative leave when they were informed about the investigation. According to school officials, Ridges served in the following roles in the district:
- Lunch hour aide at Burnt Mills Elementary School in Silver Spring from 2005 to 2006
- Lunch hour aide and special education paraeducator at Francis Scott Key Middle School in Silver Spring from 2006 to 2007
- Paraeducator at Springbrook High School since 2007 where he also served as a coach for the boy's junior varsity basketball team
Officials are urging parents of children who attend Horizon Child Care or who have had contact with Ridges to talk with their children about possible interactions with Ridges and to contact detectives at (240) 773-5400 if they believe their child was victimized.