ST. ALBANS — Jeffrey Alan Tatro, 44, of Alburgh, was arraigned Monday on charges he sexually assaulted a six-year-old and took pictures of the assault.
During the course of that investigation, law enforcement learned of a second victim, now 22, who reported being assaulted by Tatro as a minor.
The case came to light on Friday when Tatro, who is unemployed, was at the home of the most recent alleged victim.
For this report, the Messenger refers to the two victims as Ryan (the youngest person named) and Pete (the 22-year-old), names chosen at random to protect their identities. The Messenger also has chosen to conceal the names of adult witnesses because to reveal their identities would risk exposing the victims.
Information presented here is taken from court documents, primarily affidavits filed by the four officers involved with the case.
Last Friday, Ryan’s brother wanted to play a game on Tatro’s phone. Tatro said he needed to delete some photos first. Since he seemed to be having trouble doing so, Ryan’s mother said she leaned over to assist him and saw a photo of Ryan engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with Tatro. Ryan is six.
Ryan’s mother demanded to know if that was her son in the photo and Tatro in the picture. According to Ryan’s grandmother, who was present, Tatro initially denied it, then conceded that it was.
Ryan’s mother called for Ryan’s father, who was in another room. The police were called.
Two St. Albans Police Dept. (SAPD) officers were dispatched to the scene, believing they were responding to an altercation between two adults.
Officer Erik Josephson said that when he arrived at the home, Ryan’s grandmother was at the foot of the driveway and was “very upset and appeared to be crying.” After calming somewhat, she described the photo her daughter had found, once again becoming upset.
Tatro, having been thrown out of the house by Ryan’s father, was sitting in the back of a van. According to Josephson’s affidavit, Tatro admitted to Josephson and SAPD Officer Michael Schrader that “he had done something wrong.”
Josephson describes Tatro as compliant and “a bit depressed.”
The officer in his report wrote, “He was cooperative the entire time, even when the boy’s mother was yelling at him and calling him sick.”
Because Ryan’s family was becoming more agitated, Josephson escorted Tatro to his vehicle so that Officer Schrader could speak with the family.
He asked Tatro whether he was a registered sex offender. Tatro said he was not, but did state “he knew he did wrong” and that he knew the difference between right and wrong.
Tatro also told Josephson that other men had done the same thing to the boy at Tatro’s house in Alburgh, though he claimed not to know who they were. That was the second time Tatro made such a statement to police.
Josephson then advised Tatro to stop talking and closed the car door.
He then called for an additional officer to assist with collecting evidence. Learning from dispatch that Tatro was wanted on a warrant for failing to appear in court for a driving under the influence charge, Josephson placed him under arrest.
Tatro’s interaction with Josephson was recorded on a body camera and will be submitted as evidence.
The SAPD officers seized a phone, tablet and backpack owned by Tatro, all of which were handed to the Northeast Unit for Special Investigations (NUSI).
Det. John McCallum of NUSI interviewed Ryan, who, the officer learned, would often stay with Tatro in Alburgh on weekends. Tatro was an old friend of the family and was living with members of Ryan’s extended family. According to Ryan’s grandmother, the family had known Tatro since 2003.
McCallum reports that Ryan initially shook his head when asked if there was anything about Tatro he didn’t like, although he acknowledged sleeping in the same bed as Tatro.
Ryan also deflected questions about whether Tatro had ever done anything he didn’t like or that made him feel sad or strange. Instead of answering, Ryan asked about a scratch in the interview room wall.
The detective ended the interview.
Soon afterward, he learned Ryan was willing to talk more but wanted his mother present.
In the second interview, Ryan drew a picture of himself and Tatro. While discussing the picture, Ryan described incidents involving sex acts involving oral contact.
According to Ryan, this had happened more than once, but he didn’t know how many times.
Asked if electronics were being used, Ryan answered, “He was videoing ’em.”
An adult member of Ryan’s family, now 22, came forward to say Tatro also had abused him. The Messenger refers to this victim as “Pete.”
Pete told Det. Trooper Drew Cota said Tatro had become friends with his mother when Pete was 12 or 13. Pete “stated that he looked up to the defendant as a big brother who would care for him as an adult figure in his life,” according to Cota’s affidavit.
Pete would visit Tatro at his residence in Johnson and later Berkshire. He recalled an incident in Johnson in which Tatro showed him a pornographic video, asking if Pete wanted to act out anything he had seen.
Pete reportedly said he did not.
Tatro nevertheless forced his attentions on Pete, including oral contact, according to the police affidavit being used for this report.
When asked how often these incidents occurred, Pete answered, “I can’t count how many times.”
Pete reported Tatro would get into bed with him and begin fondling him. Pete “stated that he would be frozen with fear when this happened.” After these incidents Tatro allegedly would smoke marijuana with Pete, warning Pete not to tell anyone.
Cota and McCallum interviewed Tatro at the Northwest State Correctional Facility where he was being lodged on Saturday. Tatro was wearing a padded uniform and had been placed on suicide watch.
Given the visual evidence, Cota reports telling Tatro there was no question of whether the contact with Ryan occurred but how it happened remained an open question.
Tatro interrupted to claim the child “kind of initiated it,” telling officers that Ryan liked to shower with him and had touched Tatro during the showers. “Tatro they stated (Ryan) ‘has experience,'” according to McCallum’s affidavit.
Tatro admitted that showers followed by oral contact had occurred several times, claiming the young child “is a 16-year-old sexually,” according to McCallum.
Tatro admitted to taking pictures of Ryan and uploading them to the Internet, although he claimed not to have included the child’s face. He also downloaded images of other children, according to the affidavit.
Cota asked Tatro about his interactions with Pete. He admitted to the touching and oral contact, and that this contact went on for many years.
Finally, Tatro told investigators he himself had been sexually abused by his father as a child.
Tatro kept his head down throughout his court appearance on Monday, during which Judge Howard Van Benthuysen elected to continue to enforce a bail requirement of $50,000 on charges of aggravated sexual assault with a victim less than 13 years and sexual exploitation of a child stemming from his alleged abuse of Ryan.
That case is technically a Grand Isle County case because the assaults occurred in Alburgh, but is being handled by Diane Wheeler, a deputy state’s attorney in Franklin County specializing in sexual assault.
If convicted, Tatro is facing life imprisonment in the case involving the victim described by the Messenger as Ryan.
No bail was required in the charge of sexual assault with a victim less than 16 years of age, stemming from the alleged assault of Pete.
However, numerous conditions of release were set, including no contact with multiple members of Ryan and Pete’s family, as well as the victims themselves, no use of the Internet or any devices capable of recording images.
Tatro was still in prison in lieu of the $50,000 bail.
He pleaded not guilty.
The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information about Tatro is urged to contact NUSI at (802) 524-5993.