SALEM, Mass. — A former hockey coach at Haverhill and North Andover high schools is facing allegations that he molested two children while they were living with him in Haverhill more than a decade ago.
Denis Barrette pleaded not guilty yesterday to four counts of indecent assault and battery; three of the counts involve a child under 14 and one a child 14 or older, during his arraignment in Salem Superior Court, where he walked in with his attorney, John Burke, after learning of a warrant for his arrest.
A grand jury indicted Barrette earlier this month following a lengthy investigation, said prosecutor Ashlee Logan.
Barrette, a USA Junior Hockey coach in Haverhill, blames the allegations on what Burke called a contentious divorce and custody battle involving a relative. Burke called the charges “questionable.”
Logan, however, described how the allegations first surfaced in 2012, from a former relative through marriage who said that while living with Barrette, he repeatedly molested her, telling her it was a “precious little secret.”
The alleged victim, now an adult, told police at the time she wasn’t ready to go through the process of bringing the case to trial. But this year, she contacted police again, describing incidents that occurred when she was still a middle school student, Logan told the judge.
The woman’s brother, also grown, also told investigators that Barrette had sexually abused him during his childhood, telling the boy that “It’s just locker room behavior,” Logan quoted him as saying.
Logan urged a judge to set bail at $25,000 cash, citing Barrette’s ties to Canada, where he was born and has family members.
Burke said Barrette denies the allegations, calling them the result of the custody dispute over another family member.
Barrette has lived continuously in the United States since 1986, said Burke; he first came to the country in 1982 to attend Merrimack College, where he played hockey, went back to Canada for a master’s degree and has been living in the area since then.
He also noted Barrette’s former positions as a coach at North Andover and Haverhill high schools, and his current work in the junior hockey league.
Barrette was put into custody and following a hearing, Judge John Lu set bail at $5,000, ordered Barrette to surrender his passport, and set a condition of his bail that he not coach any children under 16.
A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for June 26.