By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS
Former Bethel foster parent Peter Tony pleaded guilty in court Monday to charges that he sexually abused two children.
To the people of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region, the plea agreement means "that someone who molested their children is going to be held responsible," said Bethel district attorney June Stein.
Tony, 70, was facing seven counts of second-degree sexual assault of a minor.
Under the terms of his deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to two consolidated counts of sexual abuse of a minor, charges stemming from conduct that happened in 2012, when he repeatedly molested a 4-year-old girl his wife was baby-sitting. In that incident, the abuse was reported to police after the girl asked her mom why "Baba" was touching her, then mimicked the molestation. Tony could be sentenced to anywhere from five to 99 years on each of the two charges.
In the other case, Tony pleaded guilty to one consolidated count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor relating to the 1998 molestation of a 12-year-old girl, who told a police investigator that she would wake up to find him touching her. He faces a sentence of one to 10 years on that charge because the case predates a new, legislatively set sentencing scheme.
Tony also admitted to two aggravating factors that could result in a longer sentence: being more than 10 years older than his victims and abusing them repeatedly.
He will be sentenced in June.
Authorities have said they believe Tony has more victims, including some linked to the years that he and his late wife, Marilyn Tony, operated a state-licensed foster care home.
Tony admitted to sexually assaulting foster children in the course of an interview with Bethel police in 2013, according to an officer's statement. He said he couldn't remember his victims' names or how many there were.
His former stepdaughter Kimberley Bruesch has said that Tony molested her and her two sisters. Both sisters committed suicide.
Bruesch now lives in Ketchikan.
"I am glad he can no longer harm children and hope that others can learn from this case and speak up about abuse that happened to them decades ago," she wrote in an email Monday.
Prosecutors filed charges in the two cases where evidence existed to let them proceed, Stein said.
"There were no other victims who came forward about whom we could prove charges," Stein said.
Stein said the victims and their families were satisfied with the plea agreement, which will prevent a trial.
The parents of the 4-year-old victim in the 2012 case were present at every hearing, she said. The victim of the 1998 abuse found it too difficult to attend.
Tony's case has attracted widespread attention in part because of his history as a foster parent.
But in a region that has among the worst rates of child sexual abuse in the nation, it is far from unique: Stein said her office prosecutes 200 or more cases of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor in and around Bethel every year.