The director of a Bridgewater State University child care center where a student is charged with sexually abusing two preschool boys has been held on $25,000 bail after pleading not guilty Thursday to charges that she failed to report the suspected abuse.
Judith Ritacco, 53, of Boylston, was charged with endangering a child, failure to report alleged abuse, and witness intimidation.
Because of her position, she is legally obligated to report cases of suspected abuse to state child welfare officials, prosecutors said.
Ritacco was alerted by a teacher on March 27 that a 21-year-old student who worked at the center had molested a boy, but told the teacher to keep quiet about it, authorities said.
"She said she would handle the matter, and only she would handle the matter," prosecutors said.
A Bridgewater State student from Wrentham who worked at the child care center has been charged with raping two boys, ages 4 and 5. He has pleaded not guilty.
Her lawyer, Thomas Guiney, says his client is being made the scapegoat.
Ritacco did call her superiors when she learned of the suspected abuse, Guiney said, but was brushed off and even scolded by one for going over his head.
"This is the worst case of scapegoating," he said. "It's an outrage."
Police seized several electronic devices from Ritacco's home last week. She had an open suitcase on her bed, and appeared to be packing, prosecutors said.
She was not home at the time, but her husband, who is the police chief at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, allegedly refused to tell investigators where she was, prosecutors said. She turned herself in Wednesday.
Ritacco has been placed on leave by the university and the child care center temporarily closed.
This article was originally published on April 09, 2015.