A Franklin man was arrested after police say he exposed himself in front of two children and forced them to touch each other inappropriately.
Dennis K. Burton, 57, was arrested on charges of child molestation and performing sexual conduct in the presence of a minor, both felonies, and public indecency, a misdemeanor. The Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office will decide what, if any, charges to file. Burton is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.
Detectives with Franklin police first became aware of Burton after they were notified of allegations of sexual abuse against two victims, one aged 11 and another aged 9, on May 8. The two were reportedly touching each other inappropriately and had told their parents they learned the behavior from an older neighbor, according to a Franklin Police Department report.
A week or so later, detectives spoke with both victims. The 11-year-old victim told police he was recently molested by a neighbor — later identified as Burton — and that he had touched him inappropriately about a year earlier. During this first incident, which took place in mid-winter, the victim said Burton tried to show him his genitalia and that Burton threatened to kill him if he told anyone he was molested, the report said.
The victim told police Burton pulled his pants down, but they wouldn’t look at him. Burton called them a name, and tried to get the victim to touch his genitals, but the victim did not. The victim also told detectives that Burton was attempting to get the 9-year-old victim to do same thing, according to the report.
During the second incident, which occurred in April, both victims were standing outside a Franklin apartment building when Burton approached them and pulled down his pants, exposing his genitals. Later on, the two victims were at a park playing when Burton walked up to them again and exposed himself, the report said.
When police spoke with the 9-year-old victim and his parents, one of the parents told police he had recently had an interaction with Burton. During the interaction, the parent said he told Burton he knew about the allegations, and Burton reportedly apologized and said it would never happen again, according to the report.
The second victim told police that Burton had also touched them inappropriately. During an incident which took place sometime after the encounter at the park where both victims were present, Burton had asked the victim to insert a piece of a plastic toy into their genitals. The victim refused, and Burton then stuck the piece into his own genitals, the report says.
During another incident, the victim was at the park when Burton took them over to a shaded area near a vehicle. Burton pulled his own pants down, exposing himself, and asked the victim to hit him in his genitals with a blue cane. The victim said they did so, even though they did not want to, the report said.
The victim then told police about one last incident, where Burton had asked both victims to pull down their pants and touch each other’s genitals. During this incident, Burton threatened to cut their genitals with a metal cane if they didn’t touch each other, so they did. This only stopped after Burton’s partner yelled for him and he went inside, according to the report.
One victim then denied that Burton touched them during these incidents, the report said.
Detectives spoke with Burton on May 24 about the allegations. During the interview, Burton said he had no trouble or issues with any kids in his neighborhood, and that he never communicates with kids, according to the report.
When detectives told him about the allegations, he said he thought the victims might be mad at him. A kid in his neighborhood had recently grabbed his cane while he was getting his mail and Burton had yelled at them, the report said.
Later, Burton talked about how there were women in his neighborhood who were spreading rumours about him and his partner, the report said.
After both of these statements, detectives pointed out how how Burton contradicted his previous claims of not having issues with others in the neighborhood, and detectives told him he needed to be honest with them. Shortly after this, detectives asked if he had been in contact with the second victim’s parents, which he denied. He also denied apologizing to the parent about the allegations, and then said he recalled the conversation, but he is hard of hearing and did not know what the parent was saying, according to the report.
Detectives continued to explain the allegations to Burton, and he eventually said he had exposed himself to them. He then said the victims probably saw him dealing with an itch near his genitals, and that he would not do anything like what the victims said he did, the report said.
He also said he was upset a lot, hadn’t slept much and hadn’t been thinking right. When detectives asked if this could’ve contributed to the incidents, he said it might have. They then asked if he was admitting to what had happened, and he responded with, “it could have,” the report said.
When officers asked about him threatening the victims, Burton denied the allegations and was visibly angry, the report said.
Throughout several portions of the interview, Burton responded to multiple questions with phrases such as “I could have,” including questions about him trying to make the victims touch him and the incident involving the plastic piece. He also denied inserting the plastic piece into himself, the report said.
Later on, when detectives were discussing the incidents involving canes, he admitted his pants were down and that his genitals were exposed to a child, the report says.
Shortly after this, Burton asked if he could leave the interview, and called a relative to pick him up. After this, detectives informed him he had lied during their interview, asked if could tell the truth about what happened, and asked if he would want to write an apology letter to the victims. He said yes, the report said.
Burton told detectives he would write that he was sorry that anything that might have taken place. After he wrote the letter, detectives asked him about what happened, and he said he had shown the victims his genitals while in public. He also said he had told them to hit him in his genitals with a cane if they wanted to, the report said.
When detectives asked about the plastic toy incident, Burton said it was possible it could have happened. He also said he may have told the victims to touch one another, but that they didn’t. He also said he didn’t know why he told them, the report said.
Burton was taken to the Johnson County jail on a $14,200 bond, which he paid and was later released.