A local man out on bond on a charge of aggravated sexual battery against a 12-year-old remains free on bond following a Monday hearing to determine whether his presence at a Sunday, Dec. 9, church service was a violation of his bond conditions.
Thomas Evans Baird, 79, a longtime parishioner of Tullahoma’s St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, was attending Sunday services on Dec. 9 when Tullahoma Police responded to a call to remove him from the sanctuary.
Baird, a former 30-year high school band and chorus director at Manchester’s Westwood Junior High – now Westwood Middle School - was arrested Nov. 28 and charged with one count of aggravated sexual battery against a 12-year-old, a Class B felony.
The arrest warrant alleges that Baird engaged in “unlawful sexual conduct” with the child at his residence.
When Baird, a resident of Manchester, posted his $10,000 bond that day, General Sessions Court Judge Jere Ledsinger, at the request of District Attorney General Craig Northcott, added a bond condition that Baird have no contact with anyone under 18 years of age.
Because minors were present at the church service Baird attended on Dec. 9, concerned parishioners who were aware of the charge against him notified Tullahoma Police that Baird was there.
According to the police report, one of the minors in attendance was the alleged victim.
The following day, Baird’s attorney, Bobby Carter, said Baird had contacted him prior to attending the service in an effort to determine if the conditions of his bond permitted him to attend.
“He’s been a member of that church for a long time. A lot of the congregation of that church are friends of his, so I told him he’s presumed innocent, go about his business,” Carter said. “A person is presumed innocent in this country when they are accused of a crime and they have a right to attend services. Nobody really expected that alleged victim to be in church that day.
“He has a bond condition that he can’t be around anybody under 18,” Carter continued. “In a case like this, normally the bond condition says cannot be around or contact the victims.
“I told him to go on and go down there, so I guess if there’s any fault in this it’s mine,” Carter said. “But then again, I’ve done this for 20-something years and my idea of being around someone is sitting next to them or being in a room alone with them. A sanctuary is a pretty public place.”
Baird was not arrested for the incident, but was asked by policeto leave the church.
Northcott confirmed on Monday, Dec. 10, that his office was working to determine whether Baird’s appearance at the church the previous day might lead to the revocation of Baird’s bond.
If the bond were revoked, Baird would be held in the Coffee County Jail until his scheduled Jan. 3 court date.
“It’s not a crime, it is a violation of bond conditions; so the next step in this is for us is to run down all the details and determine whether there’s a basis for a motion to revoke his bond,” Northcott said Dec. 10. “We just have to do our due diligence before we know what to do next.”
The following day, Tuesday, Dec. 11, the district attorney’s office did file a motion to revoke Baird’s bond. According to Northcott, the motion was also based on a same-day incident in which Baird attempted to contact the mother of an alleged victim. The mother reported the incident to the Manchester Police Department.
A hearing on that motion was held Monday, Dec. 17 in Ledsinger’s courtroom. It did not result in the revocation of Baird’s bond. Instead, Baird was placed on a GPS monitor at his own expense.
According to Northcott, Baird “can’t have any direct or indirect contact with any witness or other person associated with this case. He is not to be at any school, church or park. The condition that he have no contact with anyone under the age of 18 continues.”
Baird is currently the vice chairman of the Manchester Historical Society and is a member of the Manchester Steering Commission.
Baird will appear in court again on Jan. 3.
Kelly Lapczynski can be reached by email at email@example.com.