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Detectives commend Walmart staff’s assistance

By JOHN WHARTONStaff writer

A judge ordered Monday that a Calvert County man remain in St. Mary’s jail without bond on charging papers alleging he unlawfully fondled a 13-year-old girl earlier this month inside the Walmart store in California.

David Alan Dobbs, 54, of Port Republic also was charged in Calvert County with committing sexual offenses, through an investigation that court papers state involved alleged sexual assaults earlier this year on girls at a Walmart and an unspecified grocery store in Prince Frederick.

“There’s this emerging pattern of conduct that creates a risk for the community,” St. Mary’s District Judge Christy Holt Chesser said at Dobbs’ bond hearing.

St. Mary’s sheriff’s deputies met with the 13-year-old girl early last week, court papers state, and she later told detectives that she was reaching to get some eggs at the Walmart store in California on April 7 when “she felt someone breathing on her neck.”

She turned and discovered a man standing behind her, and he handed her a carton of eggs before he began groping her from behind, according to a charges application filed by detective Cpl. Robert Merritt.

The store’s security personnel reviewed surveillance video that showed that the man and girl were in the store at the same time and showed the man making a purchase with a credit card issued to Dobbs, according to charging papers. The store’s staff told the detective that they were aware of another April 4 incident at their store and one on April 6 at the Walmart store in Prince Frederick, involving other girls and a culprit of the same description.

The St. Mary’s store’s staff tracked the culprit in the April 4 incident on video making a purchase with the same credit card, court papers state, and detectives reported Monday that they have identified the girl involved in that incident. No charges have been filed from that part of the investigation.

Capt. Terry Black of the St. Mary’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations said Monday that the store’s staff was “very cooperative in the investigation,” by alerting police of initial complaints made by the girls’ relatives.

“When they got the information, they contacted law enforcement,” Black said.

The captain said that the suspect did not work for any of the businesses.

In St. Mary’s, Dobbs is charged with committing a third-degree sexual offense and second-degree assault on April 7. Dobbs is charged in Calvert County with committing a third-degree sexual offense and second-degree assault last January, and committing two third-degree sexual offenses and two second-degree assaults on April 6.

Law officers reported carrying out a house raid on Friday in Port Republic, before Dobbs was arrested.

At Monday’s bond hearing in St. Mary’s, Dobbs said, “I would like to post bond so I can take care of my affairs and talk to my wife and talk to a lawyer.”

St. Mary’s Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Kane said that Dobbs’ relatives were concerned for their own safety.

“The family asks that he not be let out,” the prosecutor said.

jwharton@somdnews.com