By Doug Ireland
---- — BRENTWOOD — A 10-year-old girl fought back tears yesterday as she told a judge how a Haverhill man committed a crime that would affect her for the rest of her life.
Shortly before his trial was to start in Rockingham Superior Court, Ronald Beausoleil, 33, pleaded guilty to exposing himself to the young girl as she shopped with her aunt at Wal-Mart in Salem in September 2011.
“This affected me,” the child told Judge N. William Delker during a plea and sentencing hearing. “I will always have an image in my head.”
As the jury waited in another room, Beausoleil pleaded guilty to an indecent exposure and lewdness charge in exchange for a suspended prison sentence of three and a half to seven years.
But Beausoleil, who said little in court, didn’t walk way a free man.
He will be sentenced Feb. 24 in connection with a similar incident at Wal-Mart in Plaistow in March 2013.
A jury convicted Beausoleil on four charges in November — aggravated felonious sexual assault, felonious sexual assault, accomplice to theft by unauthorized taking and driving after revocation.
In that case, he touched a 9-year-old girl in a sexual manner in the store’s toy aisle. Beausoleil also was charged with shoplifting spark plugs from the store and driving with a revoked license. He is a registered sex offender in Massachusetts.
Beausoleil and his attorney, Robert Watkins, told Delker and Assistant County Attorney Jennifer Haggar that Beausoleil wanted to plead guilty.
“He wanted to take responsibility for this offense,” Watkins said later. “At the last minute, he wanted to take responsibility so the girl won’t have to testify.”
Beausoleil was upset after listening to the young victim testify in the Plaistow case, Watkins said.
But the aunt of Salem victim, her eyes red from crying, said Beausoleil should have been forced to stand trial.
“My niece is a victim who had her innocence taken away,” she said. “No pedophile should be allowed to walk the streets.”
The aunt and the child, then 8, were playing hide-and-seek in the grocery aisle when Beausoleil approached the child, according to a police affidavit.
“He touched her shirt and said words to the effect, ‘Isn’t this nice?”’ Haggar told Delker.
He said it again and then a third time, Haggar said. Beausoleil then exposed himself and walked away.
The child’s aunt told the judge she thought Beausoleil was a security worker because he followed the pair throughout the store.
“He was stalking us ...” she said.
Beausoleil wasn’t targeted as a suspect in the case until Salem police learned of his arrest in Plaistow and realized he was the same person captured by the store surveillance camera at the Salem Wal-Mart. The girl then picked Beausoleil from a photo lineup.
The girl’s aunt and mother comforted her in court yesterday, putting their arms around her, as Beausoleil stood before Delker.
Delker said accepting Beausoleil’s guilty plea in exchange for a suspended sentence was the best way to prevent the convicted sex offender from harming other children.
“I truly believe this was a serious and dangerous thing, and I know it will affect the victim the rest of her life,” Delker said. “I need to make sure the sentence I impose in these two cases ensures greater protection for other children.”
But the victim’s aunt was still upset after the hearing ended, saying she thought the judge was too lenient. She said she hopes Beausoleil receives a harsh sentence in the Plaistow case.
“I feel he should have been made to stand trial,” she said. “I hope on the 24th, they nail him to the wall.”