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Lyme Man Pleads Not Guilty to Charge He Sexually Assaulted Girl

White River Junction — A Lyme man pleaded not guilty yesterday to a charge of sexually assaulting a 4 year-old girl. Meanwhile, court documents revealed that the victim initially came forward in 2009, but authorities only recently determined there was enough evidence to pursue the case.

Benjamin LaBelle, 30, is facing up to life in prison if convicted and is being held in Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., on $10,000 bail after appearing in Windsor Superior Court.

His attorney could not be reached for comment yesterday.

LaBelle was arrested last week at a work site in Enfield. However, court documents released yesterday show the alleged assault occurred some time before October 2009. The victim, now 7 years old, told a social worker that LaBelle had “touched her private parts,” but the girl was “unable to clarify this statement,” according to documents.

Investigators tried to follow-up days later, but the girl became upset, and began to tell, “I’m stupid, I’m yucky, I’m dumb.” LaBelle denied any wrongdoing, and the case was closed.

In September 2012, the case was reopened after girl told a counselor that LaBelle had touched her and hurt her during an incident in Hartford when they were alone. She was able to provide more details than she had in 2009.

The girl knew LaBelle. As a general practice, the Valley News does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes.

An affidavit filed by Hartford Police Detective Michael Tkac gives the following account.

The girl told investigators that, after the alleged assault, LaBelle threatened to call her mother and tell her that the girl was a willing participant.

The girl said that she slept through part of the incident because LaBelle plied her with two pills that “made her go asleep,” and a beer.

LaBelle was convicted of prohibited sex acts with a victim under 16 in 2000, according to Tkac’s affidavit. He received a 9 to 12 month suspended sentence and was put on probation.

LaBelle does not appear on the public sex offender registries in Vermont or New Hampshire.

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.