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Police: Boy molested young kids

The eighth-grader faces four counts of sexual battery for acts that reportedly occurred while he was babysitting.

By RYAN DAVIS and CARY DAVIS
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 28, 2002


PORT RICHEY -- The babysitter told the 5-year-old boy that it might hurt the first time, but this is what friends do. Then the 14-year-old raped the boy, friends and officials said. He also raped the boy's 3-year-old sister, they said.

According to Pasco Sheriff's detectives, Matthew Ross Zaeske assaulted each child twice. Each child told detectives that the assaults occurred during two separate babysitting sessions in December at a Port Richey house, according to a sheriff's report.

Zaeske, of 7404 Castanea Drive in Port Richey, was arrested Tuesday and faces four counts of sexual battery, the report states. He turned 15 on Monday and is in eighth grade at Chasco Middle School.

"He needs some help, and we're going to get him the help," said Ross Zaeske, the boy's father. "He's a kid. He's an immature 15. He's not a hardened criminal."

The State Attorney's Office will decide whether to prosecute Matthew as a juvenile or as an adult. That decision is significant: If charged as an adult, Matthew faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. If he is prosecuted as a juvenile, he cannot be held beyond his 18th birthday.

"(Matthew) really is sick and he needs help," the grandmother of the 5- and 3-year-old told the Times on Wednesday.

It was Monday when the children's mother came to believe they had been molested, the grandmother said. That night the mother had them take a shower.

The mother heard her 3-year-old scream, the grandmother said. The girl told her mother that her brother was trying to molest her.

According to the grandmother, the 5-year-old said: "That's okay. Matt does it and he says it's okay."

The next day, the children's mother called the Sheriff's Office, the grandmother said.

"My grandson still idolizes (Matthew)," she said.

After he was arrested, Matthew said he committed the four assaults, the deputy report states.

Matthew made his first court appearance on Wednesday. At first, when given an opportunity to ask for a lawyer, Matthew said nothing. His mother, who was sitting across the table from her son in a cramped room at the West Pasco Judicial Center, got her son's attention and whispered instructions to ask for a lawyer.

Matthew made the request for an attorney in a hesitant, high-pitched voice. Circuit Judge Lowell Bray Jr. appointed the public defender's office to represent the boy.

Matthew was being held Wednesday at the county juvenile detention center near San Antonio.

He started babysitting for the children shortly after the children's mother met his family in late 2000. The children's grandmother also met Matthew. She said he has previously been in trouble for smoking and stealing.

"Those are normal troubles for kids," the grandmother said. "This is not."

She said her family trusted Matthew.

"There was no reason to give us any idea that he was doing this," she said.

Physically, her grandchildren are fine, she said.

The 5-year-old has seen a psychologist since he started using sexual terms a few months ago, she said.

"My grandson's biggest trouble is Matt getting in trouble," she said. "He's his friend. He trusted him."

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