GRAND ISLAND, NY - A 36 year old Niagara Falls man was in town court Tuesday afternoon, for a felony hearing amid charges he molested an 8-year old girl during an amusement ride at Martin's Fantasy Island.
Barry M. Hollis, who gave police a Porter Avenue address, is charged with one felony count of sexual abuse in the first degree, and a misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child.
Hollis waived his right to a preliminary hearing, and a grand jury will now consider the charges against him.
Hollis is alleged to have fondled the girl while the two rode the Crazy Mouse roller coaster on June 22nd. Police say the two did not know each other, but boarded the same car before the ride began.
According to police, the girl told her father, who was watching her when she rode the roller coaster, about the incident after the ride concluded. However, by that time, Hollis had left. Police later tracked him down and during questioning Hollis allegedly told them he had planned his visit to Fantasy Island two weeks in advance and had made frequent visits to other parks on the area.
The prosecutor described the case against Hollis as "very strong", including an alleged confession, and the eyewitness account of the girl and other park patrons.
Despite that, Town Judge Mark J. Frentzel denied the prosecution's request to raise Hollis' $2,500 cash/$5,000 bond bail, to $50,000, -after hearing Hollis' lawyer describe her client as being on disability and indigent, with no prior criminal record.
Hollis's lawyer also described her client as having Autism, a bi-polar disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
It is not uncommon for amusement parks to board children with adults on certain rides, whether they know each other or not.
"Some rides, as a safety issue, they do have to have more people on it,"said Len Synor, Fantasy island's marketing and public relations director.
"We feel awful that this happened," Synor told WGRZ-TV. "We have taken steps to try and let our ride operators know to report anything that looks a little off, and looks a little strange to them so something like this doesn't happen again."
However, Synor says it's quite difficult if not impossible to deduce that one park patron might pose a sudden danger to another. And while park staff can be vigilant to look for anything suspicious, park patrons should not expect to now have to be asked for I.D, or somehow be screened before being permitted on rides.
"It's the first in over 21 years of ownership of this park tat anything like this has happened...it was an isolated incident , and we want to keep business as usual," he said.
Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard issued a statement shortly after Hollis was arrested on July 3rd, in which he reminded parents , "Please be aware of the area you are visiting and always make sure to keep your children in sight; know where they are going and arrange that they at not left alone."
Hollis remains in custody, and if convicted of the most serious charge against him , could serve up to seven years in prison.