A man who ran an in-home day care in Chester County has been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting young girls in the program, according to Pennsylvania State Police.
James Anthony Battista, 70, was arrested Wednesday near his home in Drexel Hill, Delaware County, and charged with rape of a child, unlawful contact with a minor, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, and endangering the welfare of children, police said.
Last June, the Pennsylvania State Police investigated a report that Battista allegedly sexually assaulted a 3-year-old child who went to the now-closed Little Friends Daycare on the 2700 block of Newark Road in Penn Township.
Three other children, ranging from ages 3 to 7, were later identified as victims of alleged sexual assault while attending the day care, which Battista’s wife owned for about 25 years, police said.
The alleged assaults happened at the day care between 2006 and 2009, after Battista began helping his wife with the business, according to police.
After authorities learned of two of the alleged assaults, the day care was closed, and Battista moved to Drexel Hill sometime in 2010.
Prosecutors initially decided to hold off on charging Battista, in part due to the children’s young ages and inability to testify in court, State Trooper Stefano Gallina told reporters at a news conference.
Officials believe there are more victims who have not yet been identified.
“Anyone else who’s out there who has been harmed by, whether it’s Mr. Battista or anyone else in this type of crime, we ask that you please come forward," Gallina said.
"No one should have to go through the rest of their lives going through this, having to deal with this type of event in their life, and not have the help and assistance that is afforded to them. And we are there for you. You may be scared, you may not want to come forward, but we will keep your anonymity the best we can, and we will investigate this crime to the fullest extent.”
Anyone with information can contact the State Police’s Avondale Barracks at 610-268-2022.
Battista was arraigned and held in the Chester County jail on $500,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for later this month.