Wilson indicted on felony charges
Alleged sex assaults took place in Antrim
ANTRIM — He met his first victim in the congregation of a church where he preached the word of God. He met his second through a family who knew he conducted Bible study classes. Now, he’s been charged with preying on a third victim. But in the third instance, the New Hampshire Sex Offender Registry helped a family realize their son was under the guidance of a two-time convicted sex offender.
Following an indictment on April 18, the list of charges against registered sex offender Max Wilson, 69, of Antrim, got longer, totaling two felonies and three misdemeanors. These charges reflect that his alleged sexual activities with a 14-year-old boy were made possible by their shared involvement in religious activities. In the past, Wilson used his background and establishment in the church system to be alone with juvenile boys; allegedly, that pattern has continued on from his days in Pennsylvania and New York, where he has sex assault convictions, before rearing its head in New Hampshire.
Wilson is awaiting trial for multiple sexual assault charges and two felony charges for allegedly touching a 14-year-old boy from Henniker in December 2013, according to court documents.
As of April 18, Wilson now faces a Class A felony for prohibition of child care services for “instruction or guidance of minor children, specifically, he conducted Bible study classes that included the attendance of minor children,” the indictment reads. As a sex offender, he was prohibited from involvement in such classes.
Wilson also faces a Class B felony charge for duty to report. He failed to register with the Antrim police as a sex offender between July 3, 2012, and Aug. 31, 2012, according to the indictment.
Three misdemeanor sexual assault charges allege Wilson assaulted a boy on Dec. 28, Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 in 2013 in Antrim, according to court documents.
According to Det. Jason LePine of the Antrim police, Wilson is classified as a tier-three sex offender, the highest classification, and therefore was required to register four times a year with Antrim police while he lived in town for almost two years prior to his arrest. However, the duty to report felony charge reflects that Wilson missed a registration date.
On Monday, Antrim Police Chief Scott Lester said he was unaware that the duty to report charge was added to Wilson’s list of charges. The first time Wilson registered with Antrim police was on July 13, 2012, according to Lester.
Lester said Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance may have brought this felony charge forward, and it may be related to failing to report any work Wilson did in Antrim. Specifically, Wilson may not have reported that he worked as a religious-based guidance counselor with 14-year-old juvenile. Lester could not be sure if this was the cause for the duty to report charge, and attempts to reach LaFrance for comments were not returned by press time.
Tier-three offenders must register with police four times a year for life, tier-two offenders register twice annually for life and tier one offenders register twice annually but not for life, according to the Unit Commander for the New Hampshire Sex Offender Registry, Trooper Rebecca Eder-Linell. Even if a sex offender is convicted of committing a non-sexual crime against someone under the age of 18, that individual would still be classified as tier three.
Wilson’s case illustrates some of the challenges police officers face in keeping the sex offender registry up to date and how difficult it can be to track the actions of those on the registry. Wilson had been living with a family in Antrim for more than a year before the alleged sexual assaults involving the boy from Henniker took place. Although Wilson was registered and listed on the state sex offender registry due to his prior convictions, according to court documents the family Wilson was living with believed he was wrongly convicted in those cases, and may have withheld that information from the family of the boy Wilson is accused of assaulting in December,
“Instead of helping him with his algebra like he was supposed to, Wilson is accused of acting inappropriately at the boy’s home, Wilson’s home and even out in public,” Merrimack County Attorney Catherine Ruffle said in an interview in March.
According to Hillsborough Superior Court documents, the juvenile told his parents that Wilson had been “hugging him, kissing him, and holding his hand,” Lepine said.
The process for registering as a sex offender is the same in every state, said Lt. Tim O’Malley, commander of the Crime Investigations Division for the Concord Police. A person required to register must go to the police station in the town they live in and register with an officer. The sex offender fills out a form provided by the state, then local police forward a copy to the state.
O’Malley said the paperwork is usually received by the state within 24 hours and then it is up to state officers to put the public information online on the state’s Sex Offender Registry.
In the nine towns in the ConVal School District, there are 20 registered sex offenders with information currently available online. Two of them live in Antrim.
Sex offenders have to register twice annually, at minimum, or when they move to another town, O’Malley said. Third-tier offenders like Wilson are required to register every three months. If a sex offender fails to register, the state registry will notify local police if they haven’t received notice of registration within five days.
“It is society’s right to be protected,” O’Malley said.
Prior to an offender’s registration date, it is up to police to keep track of all registering offenders. O’Malley said Concord police have detectives dedicated solely to investigating registered sex offenders, due to the volume of offenders in the city. Weekly, the detectives select random registered offenders and verify the registered address with the offender in person. If detectives discover any violations or an address cannot be verified, detectives will investigate until a lawful resolution is reached, according to the Concord police website.
In Antrim, Lepine said either state or local police checked in with Wilson during the last two years.
The sex offender registry’s website is updated once a week with all new and public registrations, Eder-Linell said. The convicted crimes of a sex offender must have been committed against someone under 18 years of age to be available to the public online. If information on an offender is not online, then that person is either deceased, incarcerated or committed a crime against someone over the age of 18, according to Eder-Linell.
The sex offender registry was started in 1993, Eder-Linell said, as a way to keep track of convicted offenders, including their residence, purchased vehicles and ways to contact them. This information was not made public until a 1999 murder case in California spurred a change. After 7-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered by a registered sex offender who lived across the street, legislation requiring the names and addresses of sex offenders to be made public was proposed; in 2004, Megan’s Law was passed, and every state in the U.S. now has a form of Megan’s Law, according to the Megan’s Law website.
Eder-Linell said officials with the registry unit make sure the website is updated and annual training sessions are held for local and state police.
“We do the best we can to monitor [sex offenders] and to keep them from re-offending,” Eder-Linell said.
The registry is a great resource, she said, because it helps to keep the public informed and it has assisted in many criminal cases.
This summer, Eder-Linell said the state will host its annual workshop for local and state police to do trainings, review how information is shared, how offenders are monitored and hear any suggestions. A representative from every registering agency in New Hampshire will attend.
Wilson was allowed to live with children and did not have any restrictions regarding where he was allowed to go, according to Lepine.
However, he said, Wilson could not provide guidance counseling to children, which is what he was allegedly doing with the juvenile from Henniker.
Based on court documents, Ruffle confirmed that Wilson’s first conviction was in Washington, Penn., in 1981, when Wilson was working as the pastor of the Full Gospel Assembly church. Wilson met his first victim, another juvenile boy, in his congregation, Ruffle said.
Wilson’s other conviction took place in New York in 2005. Wilson had befriended a 12-year-old boy whose father had died. Based on court documents in the 2005 case from Suffolk County, N.Y., Ruffle said Wilson took on a sort of parental role with the juvenile; Wilson was later convicted of second-degree sexual assault.
Many churches require that any individual mentoring or working with children undergo a background check to make sure they are not a registered offender. An administrator for the All Saints’ Church in Peterborough, Diane Callahan, said recently that the Episcopal diocese requires local church officials to check for offender status and criminal offenses before letting someone work with youth. These individuals must also go through safe church training.
As a way to monitor those working with children at the church, Callahan said All Saints requires a certain number of adults depending on the number of children in a church group. No two family members can work together with a group of children, Callahan added.
At press time, Wilson is being held at the Hillsborough County House of Correction on $50,000 cash bail.
A trial date has not been set.