Greater YMCA Wichita releases statement after former employee charged with rape

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Update:

Former YMCA employee Caleb Gaston remains in The Sedgwick County Jail held on a $100,000 bond.

Plymouth Learning Center tells Eyewitness News that Gaston worked there for several months last year before being fired for inappropriate touching in October.

A parent made that report and the Senior Minister says he reported it to KDHE and Wichita police.

The District Attorney says he didn't find evidence to charge him.

Another parents tells Eyewitness News that his daughter went to Plymouth in October.

She told her father that Gaston pinched her and two weeks later they found spotting on her underwear, elevating their concern.

When the father tried to tell Plymouth, he says he found out Gaston was already fire, but never told why.

He didn't have any proof for police so he didn't call until he heard of the accusation at the YMCA.

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The Greater Wichita YMCA President and CEO Ronn McMahon released a statement regarding the rape allegation against former YMCA employee Caleb Gaston.

Dear YMCA family,

I come to you with a heavy heart today as we all struggle with the recent allegations against a former YMCA employee.

I wanted to share directly with you, our Y family and community, updated information pertaining to this alleged incident at the Downtown YMCA. Please understand first and foremost that we know you are as shocked and devastated by these allegations as we are.

Our prayers and thoughts are with the family, and we thank you for the prayers and support you have already shown for the family and the Y.

It’s important that we let you know we are working closely with the police in their investigation while also taking action as quickly as possible.

In reviewing that information, here are some details we feel are important to share with you, to help assure you that the YMCA takes this situation very seriously and that we are and continue to be a safe place for your family.

First, we want to let you know that Mr. Gaston was a part-time employee with the Y starting in 2013. When he was hired, he underwent our rigid employment processes, including a background and reference check. At this time, his employment has been terminated and he is not permitted on YMCA premises.

We also want you to know that there are cameras in every Kid Zone. These cameras are recording whenever there is activity in the Kid Zone. In addition, during the time of the alleged incident at the Downtown YMCA, there were additional staff present in the Kid Zone.

I also want to apologize to you for the delay in reaching out to you.

We truly value you as YMCA members and participants. However, our communication priority for the past two days has been reaching out to parents of children who may have had interactions with Mr. Gaston. We have been working to identify and notify these families. If your family had interactions with Mr. Gaston and we have not yet contacted you, we apologize.

It is our current understanding that this allegation is an isolated incident at the Y. However, we want to make sure this is the case. If you feel your child may have had interaction with Mr. Gaston, we have set up a web page to both help you identify signs and symptoms of abuse and guide you through having those tough conversations with your child. You can access this information at ymcawichita.org/talk.

This web page also includes information on who to contact at the YMCA if you have any questions as well as how to notify the Wichita Police Department’s Exploited and Missing Children Unit should the conversation with your child give you cause for concern.

Please know that we are continuing to evaluate our processes and procedures because we take safety very seriously. We will continue to share as much information as we can, as quickly as we possibly can and directly to you.

We are heartbroken by these allegations and please join us with prayers for the family during this difficult time.

Thank you as always for being part of our Y family.

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Update: Saturday, Feb. 3

District Attorney Marc Bennett told Eyewitness News that Caleb Gaston was investigated on a previous alleged incident that occurred in October.

Investigators launched a full review of the alleged incident and afterward determined no charges would be filed.

According to Bennett, when Wichita police presented the most recent allegation this week, a thorough re-review of the October allegation was conducted. Again, no charges were filed based on that incident.

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Update: Friday, Feb. 2:

Eyewitness News has learned a YMCA employee charged with raping a four-year-old girl was fired from Plymouth Learning Center in October of 2017 for inappropriate touching.

Caleb Gaston is currently being held in the Sedgwick County jail on a $100,000 bond.

Friday afternoon, Sen. Min. Don Olsen from Plymouth Congregational Church, which houses Plymouth Learning Center, issued the following statement regarding the incident.

"Caleb Gaston was an employee at Plymouth Learning Center for several months in 2017. Plymouth Learning Center does complete background checks through the State of Kansas and in compliance with KDHE protocol. Employment references are contacted and were done so for this individual. Additionally, Plymouth Learning Center has a policy that two teachers are in classrooms with children at all times. We also have video cameras in the classrooms. Caleb Gaston's employment was terminated on 10-9-17 due to one complaint of inappropriate touching. The discharge was immediate and PLC notified KDHE and WPD investigated."

Olsen said Gaston was employed part-time at Plymouth Learning Center and the East YMCA. He was offered full-time employment at the learning center in April.

"We are saddened by the entire situation, especially for the victim at the YMCA. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family," Olsen concluded.

Eyewitness News Friday spoke with a father whose daughter attends the preschool at Plymouth Congressional Church.

The man says he believes his daughter was another victim of Gaston's. He says it happened in October and when he talked to the school about it, they told him Caleb Gaston was fired, but they did not say why.

"Our daughter had mentioned that she didn't like Caleb," the man says.

He says when asked why, his daughter said Caleb pinched her "on the bottom." It turned out, he says, that his daughter meant the inappropriate touch was to her vagina.

The girl's father says he went to the school to talk about Gaston.

"Even after me and my wife brought it to the daycare's attention, we weren't told he was let go for inappropriately touching children," the man says.

A police report says the alleged child abuse happened between September and October. WPD officers say the case was completed and forwarded to the district attorney.

We do not know why charges weren't filed.

"The reason I didn't make a police report was I didn't have any proof and Plymouth basically didn't say that he did anything wrong, so I couldn't just accuse a young man of molesting my child if I (didn't) have any proof," the man says.

He says since seeing the reports against Gaston, he has called police. He says the report of his daughter being inappropriately touched happened around the same time another incident at Plymouth was reported.

Also Friday, Scibbles and Giggles confirmed Gaston worked at its Derby daycare location for six to eight weeks in the beginning of 2017.

Owner Misti Stephen said no complaints were made against Gaston while he worked there. She said his background check was clear and his references checked out - including the YMCA where worked directly before.

Stephen said she has called Wichita police for more information regarding the case against Gaston. She encourages any with parents who have kids enrolled at Scribbles and Giggles to call if they have questions.

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Update 10 p.m.

The Greater Wichita YMCA confirms 21-year-old Caleb Gaston, accused of raping a four-year-old girl at the downtown YMCA, had worked in the Kid Zone at the downtown and east Wichita YMCA locations.

The YMCA says it is in the process of identifying and notifying families of any children who may have had contact with Gaston.

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Update 9:30 p.m.

Multiple people confirm to Eyewitness Thursday night that Gaston worked in the Kid Zone at the downtown YMCA, an area where parents drop off their children while they work out.

Gaston is accused of raping a four-year-old girl at the facility. The incident is reported to have happened on Monday (Jan. 29), police say.

The YMCA says it's launched an internal investigation, but has not said how or where this happened.

The organization says it is fully cooperating with Wichita police.

Looking into the case, Eyewitness News Thursday evening sat down with personal protection expert Joe Schillaci.

Schillaci knows from years in law enforcement how difficult it can be to talk to a young child about abuse.

"The most important thing a parent can do is pay attention to what you already know," Schillaci says. "You know your child."

For parents, Schillaci recommends looking for anything out of the ordinary.

"Just observe (and) as you are observing, look for signs of what's going on," he says. "Are there any signs of trauma? Not just emotional signs, but obvious physical signs as well."

When talking to a younger child, Schillaci says you should avoid questions that may lead them in a certain direction, but to be vigilant if you suspect anything happened.

"If your child tells you that something inappropriate happened, you really need to alert the authorities...," he says.

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Update - 6:50 p.m.

The YMCA has issued the following statement regarding one of its employees accused of raping a four-year-old:

"The YMCA was notified by the local authorities today that an employee of the Downtown YMCA had been arrested and charged for raping a minor under that age of 14 on YMCA premises.

We are deeply shocked and concerned by this incident, and our prayers go out to those involved.

The YMCA has launched an internal investigation into the situation and is cooperating fully with the Wichita Police Department on this matter.
Because this is an ongoing investigation, we are not at liberty to discuss the specifics of the case at this time.

Safety is a top priority at the Y. While we have rigid hiring policies and procedures in place to prevent this type of incident from ever occurring, we will be reviewing our hiring and safety practices as a result of this incident.

The YMCA helps more than 100,000 children reach their potential each year. We take great pride in the fact that the Y has served the kids and families in this community since 1885, and we remain committed to offering safe, enriching environments for your children when you entrust them in our care."

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A 21-year-old man has been charged in the rape of a four-year-old girl.

The Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office says Caleb Wayne Gaston appeared in court Wednesday afternoon to hear the single charge against him.

The Wichita Police Department Exploited and Missing Child Unit (EMCU) says on Jan. 29, a rape was reported to have happened at the downtown YMCA, 402 N. Market.

Officers responded to a residence regarding the possible sexual assault involving a four-year-old female victim after she had been at the downtown YMCA.

Officers arrested Gaston and booked him into jail on Wednesday.

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