Following the details aired in court Friday, the public is left to believe either veteran Peabody police officer Fred Wojick repeatedly sexually molested a young child (a female family member) for years or the girl is really lying to get revenge on Wojick for trying to split up her and her boyfriend.
Wojick, a 48-year-old patrolman in the Peabody Police Department, was arraigned Friday morning in Peabody District Court on six counts of indecent assault and battery on a child and one count of dissemination of obscene material (watching pornography with the girl).
The Peabody native, who is currently living in Danvers, joined his hometown department nearly 12 years ago and is a decorated officer, most recently receiving three formal commendations for actions in the line of duty from Police Chief Robert Champagne at the department's annual awards ceremony last year.
Wojick was arrested Thursday night at 7 p.m. by state police detectives assigned to the Essex County District Attorney's office who worked on the case with Peabody police. Wojick was held overnight and appeared in court with his attorney Tom Drechsler.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on personal recognizance by Judge Matthew Nestor and ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim or her mother and not leave the state.
Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall outlined a history of alleged overt sexual behavior and remarks toward the young girl over four years, from the time she was 10 until 14. The girl, now 17, did not come forward with the allegations, however, until about a week ago, according to MacDougall.
The girl told investigators she didn't speak up before because she didn't want to hurt her mother, who had a good relationship with Wojick.
MacDougall said, prior to the girl's confession, Wojick had confided in a fellow Peabody officer he was having serious personal problems and that his family life was in shambles.
Wojick then allegedly said he sometimes joked around and slapped the girl's backside, but did not indicate the behavior went any further than that.
He was admitted to a hospital for treatment, which his attorney characterized Friday as due only to stress-related issues.
Officers initially questioned the girl and her mother about the situation and the girl said there was no overtly inappropriate behavior by Wojick, while acknowledging he did not approve of her boyfriend. Three days later, however, she told a different story.
The girl said Wojick would talk to her about explicit sexual acts and one time sat her on his lap to watch adult pornography when she was 11 or 12. As he explained what they were seeing, he became aroused, she said.
As she became older and reached puberty, she said, Wojick made more overt sexual comments about her body and repeatedly touched her in a sexual way, including sticking his hand down her shirt and touching her clothed genitals.
According to the girl, she and Wojick had come to an understanding in recent weeks after he realized his previous behavior amounted to sexual abuse.
On Friday, Drechsler called the girl's allegations "salacious" and "sensationalized," saying Wojick fully denies any such behavior occurred. Rather, Drechsler argued, the teen was possibly seeking revenge on Wojick.
He said Wojick disapproved of the girl's relationship with her boyfriend, who had run afoul of the law, and it was only until after he tried to prevent her from seeing the boyfriend anymore that allegations of sexual abuse were made.
Drechsler said the two were arguing about the boyfriend since the summer at least, their most recent argument just days before she told police of the alleged abuse.
Drechsler pointed to Wojick's long career as a police officer -- 21 years in total -- and lack of any past legal or criminal problems. He added that Wojick also coaches Pop Warner football and has never had a complaint against him.
Prior to Peabody, Wojick spent five years as an officer at UMass Lowell and then another five with the Essex Police Department. He graduated from Peabody Veterans Memorial High School and also owns or did own a gym on Foster Street.
Drechsler said Wojick first became aware of this case a few days ago when he received a call from the state police. He went to the Danvers barracks of his own volition and returned home. Drechsler said the two spoke and planned to meet Friday anyway, but then was arrested Thursday night.
"He hasn't left town; he's still here and he will be here to face these charges," Drechsler said.
Drechsler, speaking to reporters afterward, said Wojick "strenuously denies" the allegations and there are inconsistencies in the girl's claims, which Drechsler plans to highlight at trial. He said Wojick was surprised at the turn of events.
Wojick was released, but ordered to have no contact with the girl or her mother in part because MacDougall said Wojick was sending text messages to the mother Thursday night from his holding cell. Wojick was also given a bail warning, meaning he could be held up to 60 days without bail if he violates the conditions, fails to appear in court or breaks the law.
The DA's office had requested $10,000 cash bail given the seriousness of the charges, along with family connections in Florida and concerns over Wojick's mental status.
Chief Champagne only offered brief comment Friday on the case.
“The Peabody Police Department takes any allegation against a member of the department very seriously,” he said in a statement. “Officer Wojick was placed on suspension Thursday evening and his service weapon and department identification has been retained by the department.”
Wojick is due back in court Jan. 10.