A York County man accused of molesting a 2-year-old girl inside the Newberry Township Walmart recently became a volunteer child advocate for Cumberland County.
But Anita Brewster, director of that county's Court Appointed Special Advocate program, said Robert R. Alfrey had not yet been assigned a case, meaning he had no contact with children through the CASA program.
Alfrey, of 534 Fishing Creek Road in Fairview Township, is free on $50,000 bail, charged with indecent assault and related offenses. He turns 70 years old this week.
Newberry Township Police Chief John Snyder said Walmart surveillance videotape shows Alfrey following a toddler and her mother through the store on Monday evening, and fondling the toddler more than once as the mother was distracted.
Snyder called the video "chilling."
Alfrey's bail conditions forbid him from having unsupervised contact with any minors, according to records.
Sworn in: Alfrey was sworn in as a CASA on April 2 by a Cumberland County judge, Brewster confirmed.
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to ensure they don't get lost in the overburdened legal and social-service systems, or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes, according to the national CASA website.
They are everyday citizens who have undergone screening and training, the website states.
Brewster said the Cumberland County CASA program has about 55 active volunteers, all of whom have gone through extensive training and thorough background checks.
"The application alone is eight pages," she said. "We are putting volunteers with kids who have risk issues, so we can't do enough to make sure we're screening out anyone with a red flag."
Brewster said at this point, her office will not be assigning Alfrey a case.
Rigorous process: The initial training process takes about 40 hours, not including required annual update training sessions, according to CASA literature provided by Brewster. Also, each prospective volunteer undergoes a lengthy interview that can last up to three hours, she said.
It's the first time a Cumberland County CASA has been charged with committing crimes against a child, Brewster said.
"Most people (become CASAs) because they want to do something for kids in our community. Often they feel they've had good lives and want to give something back," she said. "They give their hearts and souls. ... They are amazing, in our experience."
Unlike child-services caseworkers, who might have 20 or 30 cases, a CASA is assigned just one case, whether that's one child or one group of siblings, Brewster said.
Mom alerted: Chief Snyder said the child Alfrey allegedly molested was in a cart at Walmart, and that her mother only looked away from her briefly.
"The parent did absolutely nothing wrong," he said. "This guy walked right up to the child. ... He saw an opportunity and he took it."
Alfrey left the store after another shopper saw what was happening and yelled, alerting the child's mother, according to charging documents.
Alfrey has not returned phone messages seeking comment.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.