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North Lawrence man charged with forcible touching incapacitated

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MASSENA - A North Lawrence man charged with forcible touching after he walked up to an eight-year-old Montreal girl shopping at Walmart and grabbed and squeezed her buttocks in late September has been ruled unable to understand the charges against him and incapable of assisting in his own defense.

The ruling on Timothy A. Merwin, 22, came following pyschological evaluations by two professionals reportedly reached the same conclusion.

Massena Village Justice Eric J. Gustafson told Merwin and the adult accompanying him to court that the ruling he was incapacitated meant he was being committed to the supervision of the state’s commissioner of Mental Health Services. “You can look forward to receiving contact from mental health services,” he noted.

In felony cases, defendants found to be incapacitated are placed in secure facilities. That is not a criteria for misdemeanor charges. Merwin has not been in custody since his arrest.

Merwin was charged following an incident at 11:32 a.m. Sept. 24 at the Walmart store.

The girl’s father told police he and his daughter were looking at cereals when a stranger walked up behind her, bent down slightly, grabbed her butt and squeezed it so hard that it hurt the child.

The girl’s father said he confronted Merwin, and store security called village police to the store. While waiting for police to arrive, Merwin reportedly slapped the girl’s father in the ear and told him to get out of his way.

Merwin’s stepfather reportedly arrived in the area a few minutes later in an effort to find out what was going on with the then 21 year old. Merwin then allegedly grabbed a frying pan and threatened to hit the girl’s father in he head before his stepfather was able to calm him down.

The father of the eight-year-old Montreal girl said shortly after Merwin’s arrest he would do anything in his power to get a conviction in the case.

He said he has contacted the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, and they had pledged to help him find justice for his daughter.

He said at the time he was worried about the charges being dropped following a conversation he had after the incident with a Massena village police officer, who told him the district attorney may just drop the charges because of the defendant’s “diminished capacity.”

“I don’t believe it. He apologized to me and said, ‘I shouldn’t have done that,’” the girl’s father said days after Merwin’s arrest. “What it comes down to is can the defendant recognize the difference between right and wrong. There is no way he does not know that what he did was wrong.”

He had said he would file a civil suit against Merwin if the criminal charges were dropped.

The girl’s father said he had seen the incident take place. “This man approached and at this point I wasn’t thinking sexual assault, I was just thinking he was going to reach over top of her and grab a box of cereal.”

However, he said, he watched the man bend over and grab his daughter’s buttocks.

“She turned around and screamed. When she realized it wasn’t anybody she knew, she had a look of horror on her face. I’ll never forget that,” he said.

The girl’s father said that he’s been making regular trips to Massena for well over 20 years and despite the incident he plans to continue doing so.

“I like Massena. I’m going to keep going to Massena. I’ll just be avoiding Walmart from now on,” he noted in September.

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