In fact, evidence suggests someone else molested Tom. Shortly after the allegations surfaced, DSS removed Tom and his brother Keith from the Hill home, placing them in foster care. Sarah and Joe Hill had already separated. Then, on January 17, 1985, just days before Baran’s trial, Tom told his foster mother that he had been abused by his mother’s current boyfriend. (The name of the boyfriend was cited in official reports and documents.) She immediately filed a report with DSS.
Four days later, on the first day of Baran’s trial, social worker William Baughen substantiated the allegations against the boyfriend. As in any case of child rape, he requested that the case be referred to the district attorney.
But the case was not referred to the DA by DSS regional director Federico Brid for more than a week. On the same day the jury announced Baran’s verdict, Brid wrote, "Please find a DA referral on behalf of Tom Hill ... whom we believe to have been sexually abused by ... [the] mother’s boyfriend. As you may recall, Tom was one of the children involved in the [day-care] series of referrals."
The Phoenix could not locate Brid for comment.
The memo was not stamped "received" by the DA’s Office until five days after Baran’s sentencing. The trial was officially over. Ford never shared this information with the defense, according to Baran’s new attorneys. In a recent phone call, Ford declined to comment.
The boyfriend was never charged. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
In most cases of child rape, "The DA’s Office would know that very day," said Baughen in a recent interview. "The social worker would have the child tell the story with officials present." In his 23 years as a social worker, Baughen said, he had never heard of it taking that long for the DA to find out about a possible child rape. "It would be hard to guess how something like that would happen," he said.
Not providing such information to Baran’s defense attorneys highlights another problem with the case: the prosecution did not give potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. For example, there was evidence to suggest that four-year-old David Stowe was influenced by his mother’s state of mind. Darlene Stowe suffered from a psychiatric problem similar to an extreme form of hypochondria, according to her doctor. Her syndrome was "a coping mechanism to suppress anger and hostility," wrote Dr. Roy Meals, a Los Angeles surgeon, in a letter to Stowe’s insurance company discouraging an operation to correct an injury that resulted from her mental condition.
It was possible that Stowe transferred her emotional distress to her son. Just days before Baran’s trial began, Dr. Barry Simmons of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, wrote a letter to a Pittsfield colleague about Stowe’s disorder. In it he stated, "The concern, of course, is that if one robs a patient of a physical disability that they used to cover an underlying emotional problem, they will only [find an outlet] elsewhere."
While a mother’s psychological problems would not necessarily lead her to induce her child to make a false charge of sexual abuse, Baran’s lawyer did not have this information about the mother of one of his client’s accusers. Consequently, it was never presented to the jury.