DCF Employee Acquitted of Sexual Molestation

By: Jerry Askin, Julie Montanaro Email
By: Jerry Askin, Julie Montanaro Email

UPDATED 9.7.2012 by Julie Montanaro

A former Florida Department of Children and Families employee accused of molesting a child was found not guilty this week.

Matthew Lappin was arrested in March 2011. He was accused of molesting a 9 year old girl on two separate occassions.

At the time, Lappin worked for DCF answering calls as an abuse hotline counselor. He was promptly fired.

This week, a jury found Lappin "not guilty" of the charges against him.

"If you look on the internet there's been all kinds of stories done about him," Lappin's attorney Ryan Davis said. "You Google his name and it comes up that's he's a child molestor, but we had a jury of six people yesterday that said he isn't."

Lappin faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted. He walked out a free man.

Davis says Lappin has not been able to get a job since his arrest and has relied on his family to make ends meet for the past 18 months.

UPDATE 3-21-2011 at 5:45pm by Jerry Askin

Leon County sheriff deputies arrested state DCF worker Matthew Lappin Wednesday accusing him of sexually molesting a child under the age of 12 in both April and October 2010.

Department of Children and Families Communications director Joe Follick says Lappin has worked as an abuse hotline counselor since July 2009.

He says his duties were to handle calls from people around the state who believe they were in unsafe conditions, but he had no direct contact with any of the clients.

He goes on to say, "It's disappointing - it's very disappointing, but most of our employees do a good job and work hard everyday."

DCF placed Matthew Lappin on administrative leave in February when they first found out about the allegations, but March 16th after his arrest, he was officially terminated.

Follick says a proper background was check was done at Lappin's time of hire and there were no indicators of prior criminal activity.

"When we receive an allegation like this, we take quick action because Floridians deserve it and other employees deserve it" says Follick.

But some local parents say more needs to be done to ensure safety for our children.

Tallahassee parent Ashley Smith says, "It's our children and we have to take extra precautions than just any average joe off the street to be a hotline representative. It's just not okay."

Leon County sheriff deputies say Lappin was not directly involved with the child while working as an abuse hotline supervisor.

Lappin remains in the Leon County Jail tonight on a bond of $25,000 dollars. Stay tuned to WCTV.TV for the very latest on this story.

A Tallahassee employee of the Florida Department of Children and Families is behind bars tonight accused of sexually molesting a child under the age of 12.

Leon County sheriff deputies arrested 29-year old Matthew Lappin Wednesday for sexual offenses against a minor on two separate dates.

A state of Florida website shows that Lappin was hired as a full-time employee at the Department of Children and Families as an abuse registry counselor in 2003.

Local parent Jill Mitchell says, "It's just awful to think that someone who is supposed to be protecting our children is the one actually harming them."

Tallahassee parent Dan Stannard says, "I believe he should be arrested definitely because it's against the law to do what he did - especially in the position that he's in."

Lappin remains in the Leon County Jail tonight with a bond of $25,000.

It's unclear whether Lappin is still employed with the Department of Children and Families or if he faces some type of suspension.

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  • by Dana Location: Tally on Mar 23, 2011 at 05:19 PM
    I find it quite disheartening that the 1st thoughts to come across from many posting, is the possibility the child/children lied. It wasn't worded to be cautious overall... Be cautious to condemm and cautious to protect any children within proximaty. The 1st- was how very often kids lie. Yes, some lie about who made the mess, left the door open, let the dog out. But UNDER age 12...their words of accusation MUST be taken seriously. Until proven INNOCENT, he should have NO access to children period! If someone I knew had been told, that a friend/neighbor/family whatever had been accused/suspected of molesting a child and DID not tell me I would be furious. If something happened and they had the knowledge to prevent it, I would hold them as responsable. There is a difference in being informed and CAUTIOUS then condemnation. Maybe this man IS innocent, but until it is known for SURE- Precautions should be taken. To doubt the word of a child immediately shows ignorance and a morally inept person. How often do we hear the horror stories, Zhara Baker, Hailey Dunn, to just name a few, whose parents overlooked/ignored the warnings from their children? The stories we hear where the children did tell, did speak and were tolf they lied and are now dead? It would be criminal to ignore them.
    • reply
      by Still harping??? on Mar 25, 2011 at 06:32 AM in reply to Dana
      The reason it first comes to mind for some is that some of us have experience with kids, and experience with kids that LIE, that's why. We're not naive to the fact that kids lie to get attention, or get their way, or get someone in trouble because they don't like them and that not all kids are perfect saints. Not all kids would lie about this kind of thing, but the fact is, some do. It's becoming more common than you think. Check out the website for False Rape Society.
      • reply
        by Dana on Mar 25, 2011 at 07:30 AM in reply to Still harping???
        Unlike some who will CONTINUALLY change their NAME on here...I will continue to use MY name and HARP on the welfare of CHILDREN! Unlike SOME, I put the safety and securities of CHILDREN first and make no apologies for that. I stand by every statement I've posted here.
        • reply
          by The Name Changer on Mar 25, 2011 at 02:04 PM in reply to Dana
          Go get a job with DCF then, if you haven't already.
  • by SADIE Location: Chipley on Mar 23, 2011 at 10:43 AM
    Not to say what this person did was right, but why is it that it is the state of florida who is responsible for all the kids out there being abused and neglected. What about the parents, neighbors, school officals, pastors, family and friends. DCF get the blame for every this that goes wrong with messed up families. If everyone else would do there job and stop placing the blame on the Dept of Children and families, maybe kids would be much safer.
  • by Erin on Mar 22, 2011 at 07:58 PM
    The article did not say anything about "raping a kid." That's a much more serious charge than what this man has been charged with. And, yes, kids do lie...often...especially girls. Today's middle school girls, and sometimes even elementary school, know more about sex than girls did in high school when we were growing up.
    • reply
      by Agreed! on Mar 23, 2011 at 05:12 AM in reply to Erin
      OH they sure do!! If he did this I hope he pays dearly....but there is always the chance it's a lie. Sad that it's come to be that way but it has.
  • by Erin on Mar 22, 2011 at 07:51 PM
    Kids can and often do lie if they have a motive. And, because of that, I'll believe innocent until a jury finds otherwise. If you have firsthand knowledge, fill us all in. Under the age of 12...have you been around 11-year-olds lately? Today's 11-year-olds act like we did when we were 17 or 18...especially girls. You used to have to worry about boys being out of control. It's not the boys anymore!
  • by Anonymous Location: FL on Mar 22, 2011 at 08:39 AM
    There is too much information missing to pass such a judgment on someone as many people here already here. A person should never looked at being guilty till proven otherwise. If he did it, then give him the maximum. I'm sure the prison population will take care of the rest. If he's innocent, leave me be! Until then, the courts should have an injunction against him and with any children until the investigation has been concluded, should he ever be able to raise the money for bail which would probably be unlikely.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 22, 2011 at 08:17 AM
    Erin, myself and the 100's of guys I know don't seem to have a problem being falsely arrested for raping a kid, gee, wonder why? You really think the mean ole police and mean ole children are picking on this poor man(rolls eyes)? Yes, I'm sure he's completly innocent(pukes).
  • by Anonymous on Mar 22, 2011 at 05:29 AM
    You are only required to have a Bachelors Degree to qualify for one of those positions and they are not licensed counselors they are just the people who take the reports, the investigators who receive the reports are the ones with the extensive training.
  • by Correctional Officer Location: Talllahassee on Mar 22, 2011 at 05:08 AM
    Give who the benefit of doubt???? Explain why??? Law Enforcement arrested him, he was fired......What else does it take? Oh but if the Race was an different Color then----WHAT huuummmm he gulity huh.. Stop trying to fool youself & YES i ahd the chance to read the Proable Cause, these kids UNDER 12 YEARS OLD arent lying. They had individuals that specialize in questioning them, so just face it,,,,,,there is some sick people in this world..............I Supervise them of all kinds race, gender, color everyday.
  • by Erin on Mar 22, 2011 at 03:56 AM
    Everyone should be given "the benefit of a doubt" until the facts come out and they are convicted. I haven't read the arrest papers. Have you?
  • by Ellen Location: Tallahassee on Mar 21, 2011 at 10:05 PM
    Abuse Hotline Counselors are not regular counselors that go into homes or that people go to see in their office. They have no ongoing relationship with a case. They sit in an office building in cubicles and take calls from across the state for people calling to report child abuse or neglect. Some counseling skills are required, but these people do not investigate or manage cases. The cases are referred to a professional protective investigator who will go to the home and follow-up.
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