Theresa Caroline Gooch, 24, is being held on sex charges involving a 16-year-old girl.

Children's Receiving Home counselor suspected of sex acts with minor, Sacramento police say

Published: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 - 6:33 am

A former counselor at the Children's Receiving Home of Sacramento stands accused of molesting a 16-year-old girl who was staying at the home, according to authorities.

On Wednesday, Sacramento police arrested Theresa Caroline Gooch, 24, in connection with the alleged abuse. Police alleged it occurred between September 2012 and February.

Gooch was booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail, where she remained in custody Thursday night in lieu of more than $250,000 bail.

According to Superior Court records available online, Gooch faces one charge of molesting a minor, two charges of oral sex with a minor and one charge of attempted oral sex with a minor.

Gooch no longer works at the Children's Receiving Home, and the victim no longer stays there, according to a statement from the Auburn Boulevard facility.

The investigation began after a relative of the victim came forward with the allegations, said city police Officer Doug Morse.

Detectives allege that Gooch developed a relationship with the victim "to include inappropriate touching, which evolved into the victim agreeing to meet the suspect off campus, where additional inappropriate acts occurred," Morse said.

He said there are no indications of any other victims.

Police worked with the District Attorney's Office to obtain a warrant Wednesday, and officers arrested Gooch later that day.

David Ballard, chief executive officer of the Children's Receiving Home, released the following statement, which in part contradicts the police account: "We are aware of a reported event that took place outside of our campus that if accurate, is stated to have involved a former staff member and a former client. Please let me stress that the person no longer works at our agency and we are cooperating with all appropriate regulatory and law enforcement agencies."

Ballard declined to answer questions, citing the ongoing investigation.

In an email to The Bee, a state Department of Social Services official said the department has issued an exclusion order to Gooch. Michael Weston, deputy DSS director of public affairs and outreach programs, said the order prohibits her from having any association with any facility licensed by the department.

Attorney Stewart Katz, who is representing the victim, criticized those in charge of the Children's Receiving Home. He alleged a mandatory reporter who works at the facility alerted officials to the inappropriate behavior at least twice before police were notified.

"They were told it was going on and they dismissed it," he said of officials at the home. "A lot of this conduct happened well after they had been advised."

Katz said much of the molestation occurred at the suspect's house — and that allowing the suspect to take the victim off campus was a violation of policy.

He said his client is back in the custody of her mother.

"Clearly this was a person who was in a vulnerable state," Katz said. "This is a fairly immature 16-year-old."

The Children's Receiving Home is a privately run, nonprofit facility that most commonly houses children placed into "protective custody" by law enforcement or Child Protective Services. The children come from all over the Sacramento region.

Most of its funding comes from government sources, but it also accepts donations.

The facility employs about 135 people and has more than 70 volunteers, according to the website.

Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter @kim_minugh.

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