In early April, residents in the local community became alarmed when a bicycle-riding flasher began preying on young girls in Chantilly.
In just two days, Fairfax County police received three separate reports of a man exposing himself to five girls in the Greenbriar and Brookfield communities.
Now, the perpetrator — Thomas Michael Hayes, 27, of 8604 Sanderling Drive in Manassas — has not only been taken off his bicycle, but off the streets, as well. Last Friday, in Circuit Court, he was sentenced to a year in jail.
After all, said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ian Rodway, young women in this county have a right to live in safety and deserve protection from sexual predators such as Hayes.
According to police, the exposure incidents were as follows:
* The first one occurred April 8, around 3:15 p.m., near Pennsboro and Ellendale drives in Brookfield. Two girls, 12 and 13, were walking down a path when a bicycle approached them from behind. They turned and saw a man bicycling toward them. Police said he appeared to be masturbating while he rode. He spoke briefly to the girls and continued riding past them.
* An hour later, around 4:15 p.m., police said the same man exposed himself to and sexually assaulted two teen-age girls in Greenbriar. The girls, 13 and 14, were walking on a bike path behind Majestic and Madonna lanes.
Police said the man rode his bicycle behind the older girl, grabbing her buttocks. Then he rode his bicycle in front of the younger girl and exposed himself. After grabbing her between the legs, he rode away.
* Then on April 9, around 3:30 p.m., on Lees Corner Road near Fulmer Drive in Brookfield, a 13-year-old girl was walking home from school when she saw a man on a bike path. He spoke to her to get her attention and, when she looked at him, she saw that his pants zipper was down and he was exposed. She ran home and told her father.
The next day, April 10, after sharing the suspect's description with the public, police responded to Chantilly after a woman reported seeing a similar-looking man there. Across from Chantilly High, police saw Hayes — who also matched the victims' description of the flasher. They then arrested him and charged him in connection with one of the April 8 offenses.
Later, police said the April 9 victim positively identified Hayes as the man who exposed himself to her. On April 17, he was charged with this crime, too, plus one count of aggravated sexual battery stemming from one of the April 8 incidents.
Altogether, Hayes was charged with three counts of taking indecent liberties with children and one count of aggravated sexual battery. On July 29 in Circuit Court, two of the charges were dropped, but Hayes pleaded guilty to two of the indecent-liberties charges.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Kassabian then gave details of those two offenses. He said that, in the April 8 incident involving the girls, ages 13 and 14, Hayes reached out and grabbed one girl's buttocks.
Then, said Kassabian, Hayes said the first one who showed him her breasts didn't have to give him oral sex. Hayes then grabbed the younger girl's crotch over her clothes and said he wanted to have sex with her. Then he rode away.
In the April 9 incident, said the prosecutor, Hayes showed the girl his penis and asked if she'd ever seen one before. Frightened, she ran away, and Hayes was arrested, the next day.
He returned to court Friday for sentencing by Judge David Stitt. Present in the courtroom were Hayes' parents, siblings and girlfriend.
Worried about how large a sentence her client would receive, public defender Rita Janacek said "no threats, intimidation or emotional harm" were done to the victims and she hadn't received any written statements from them telling that they'd required any counseling after the incidents.
However, the probation officer said that, "With this type of crime, I'd certainly think intimidation was a part of it." Agreed the judge: "I believe that's a fair assessment."
Janacek said Hayes has "no significant criminal record and no prior felonies — all misdemeanors." She also pointed out that, once he was arrested, "he took responsibility and cooperated with the police." While he was out on bond, she said, he obtained counseling for depression and anxiety and he was undergoing a sex-offender evaluation so he could get the treatment he needed.
"He's very remorseful, and he wants to understand why he behaved this way," said Janacek. "It makes him sick, and he wants to continue counseling [so he won't ever repeat his offenses]. He had an abusive childhood. His mother abandoned him, he was sexually abused by a babysitter and there's alcohol and drug abuse in his family."
She also noted that, after a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, a psychologist wrote that Hayes hadn't received sex-offender or mental-health treatment prior to his arrest. Janacek then urged Stitt to require that Hayes receive this help, as well as substance-abuse treatment. She also said his risk of repeating would be greatly lessened with treatment and medication.
However, prosecutor Rodway said Hayes committed similar crimes in three jurisdictions altogether and definitely deserved some time behind bars. He said Hayes was convicted of a July 21, 2001 indecent exposure in Halifax County, and was also convicted of the same offense, committed seven days later, in Virginia Beach.
"He received 12 months in jail, all suspended, from Halifax County, and they ordered him to get psycho-sexual treatment," said Rodway. "But what does he do? He slips away and moves to Manassas."
Then came the Fairfax County offenses in April, with Hayes up to his old tricks. Rodway implored Judge Stitt not to let him get away with it. "The young girls of Fairfax County need to be protected," he said. "That's what the Circuit Court of Halifax County tried to do, but [Hayes] refused to listen. He wants to do [this type of behavior], and he does it — and that calls for incarceration."
Hayes then stood and addressed the court before sentencing. "I'd like to apologize to the young ladies and to society for the trust I've taken away," he said. "I realize my behavior was unacceptable, and the sooner I start my incarceration and get out, the sooner I can start treatment and can put this all behind me. I'm sorry."
Then it was Stitt's turn. "You're saying the right things, and I certainly hope you're sincere," he told Hayes. "[But] you've got a problem and you've got to get a hold of it. As you say, your conduct is unacceptable, and this behavior has to be punished."
He then sentenced Hayes to two years in prison on each charge, suspending 18 months of each sentence. Since he then ordered the sentences to run consecutively, that meant Hayes has two, six-month jail terms to serve — one year total. He also placed Hayes on a total of five years probation, upon his release.
Furthermore, said Stitt, "The suspended time is conditioned upon your general good behavior [and] your obtaining mental-health counseling and sex offender treatment." He said Hayes must also continue taking his medication, maintain full-time employment and have "no unsupervised contact with minors."