At the time, Joe, Sarah, and Tom Hill lived together; Tom’s father (and Joe’s cousin), Tony, had moved out of the house just before Tom was born. Well known to local police through repeated domestic-abuse complaints, according to court documents, both Sarah and Joe had long been entrenched in the local drug culture.
"It was a way of life," Joe Hill acknowledged in court documents. "Nembutal, Seconal, Percodan, heroin, cocaine, Methedrine. Is that enough?"
On Friday, October 5, 1984, two months after complaining about Baran’s presence at the day-care center, Joe Hill made a more ominous call. That morning, he told Pittsfield police that Tom came home from school the previous day with blood on his penis. Hill told detectives the boy had said, "Bernie did it."
That same afternoon, Pittsfield police detectives Joseph Collias and Robert Beals went to the day-care center. After speaking to interim director Janie Trumpy, they learned that Tom Hill had not attended school on the day Joe Hill said the incident occurred, according to their reports.
Nonetheless, suspicion spread, setting in motion a fast-paced investigation that centered on one suspect: Bernard Baran. That evening, the accusations of one three-year-old girl, Jane Reed, became pivotal in the case against Baran.
The girl’s mother, Eileen Reed, was secretary of the day-care center’s board of directors, and had taken her daughter out of the school citing administrative problems, according to court documents. Within hours of Joe Hill’s complaint, day-care-center coordinator Carol Bixby called Reed to tell her that certain parents were voicing suspicions about Baran, according to police reports.
Reed called Pittsfield Police captain William Dermody. As a result, Detectives Francis Winpenny and Bruce Eaton met the Reeds at their home on the night of October 5. Eileen Reed told them that she had questioned her daughter privately and learned that Baran had fondled Jane.
The following week, parents, teachers, social workers, police officers, and the Berkshire County District Attorney’s Office met to discuss the allegations. Authorities told parents to question their children. Jane (Satullo) Shiyah, a psychologist with the Berkshire County Rape Crisis Center, and Pat Palumbo, of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS), staged a sexual-abuse puppet show for the children. They carefully monitored each child’s reaction. Those who responded unusually — acting out or showing discomfort — were then interviewed. By the end of the exercise, the complaints tallied by Shiyah and Palumbo numbered more than a dozen.
On October 6, Baran was arrested and charged with crimes related to the Hill and Reed allegations. He telephoned his mother from jail and told her he didn’t do anything and had nothing to hide, according to police reports. He posted bail the next day, only to be arrested a second time, on October 10. He has remained behind bars ever since.
During the weeks following Baran’s arrest, authorities narrowed the case to allegations by six children: Tom Hill, Jane Reed, and four others: David Stowe, Kathy Cooper, Mary Gomez, and Peter Slocum. In all, Baran was charged with 12 counts; six for indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14, and six more for child rape.