A Worcester man has been charged with attempted murder for allegedly kidnapping a 7-year-old girl from her grandparents’ home, choking her, and throwing her from the I-290 bridge over Lake Quinsigamond into the water below.
The girl survived the assault, which took place in the early hours of Aug. 27. She swam to shore and knocked on the door of a nearby Shrewsbury resident, who helped her and called authorities.
Joshua Hubert, who was arrested later that day by Worcester police, was originally charged with kidnapping. The 35-year-old now faces attempted murder charges in both Worcester District Court and Westborough District Court, according to The Boston Globe.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his lawyer says he “adamantly denies” the allegations. He is being held on $1 million bail.
“Fortunately, a greater tragedy was averted,” Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said in a statement. “The young victim had the strength to make it to shore and get help.”
Here’s what we know about the unsettling case from news reports and court records.
The alleged abduction and assault
Police say the child was at a family party at her grandparents’ home in Worcester on Aug. 27 when she taken from the house without permission by Hubert around 2:30 a.m, put in a car, and choked.
Hubert was a guest at her family’s cookout that evening, according to prosecutors.
Worcester Assistant District Attorney Cheryl Riddle said during Hubert’s dangerousness hearing Thursday that the Worcester man drove around with the girl in his car for about 90 minutes, according to the Globe. But where he went is not known.
Hubert eventually drove to the Interstate 290 bridge over Lake Quinsigamond, which divides Worcester and the town of Shrewsbury, where he stopped the car and got out “shortly before” 4 a.m., according court reports obtained by MassLive. He then allegedly picked up the girl, who was wrapped in a blanket, and threw her off the bridge.
Prosecutors say authorities have surveillance video of Hubert — though they did not specify what the video shows during the hearing, according to the Globe. They also say a witness saw him on the bridge where the child was tossed into the water.
The girl survived the fall and swam to the Shrewsbury side of the lake where she knocked at the door of one of the lakeside homes, according to the district attorney’s office.
Maeve Geary, a 30-year-old graduate student, told the Globe she was woken up by the girl’s raps on her door around 4 a.m. She opened the door to the child — soaking wet and shoeless in pajamas — and let her inside.
Geary told the newspaper the girl may have seen her hall light from the water.
The Shrewsbury resident wrapped the girl in a towel and gave her a stuffed animal — a fluffy dog named “Floppy Dog” — as they waited for the police to arrive.
Authorities have not released the name of the girl or her family, and her relatives declined to comment at Thursday’s hearing, according to the Globe.
Geary told the newspaper the child was calm and didn’t cry as she recounted what had happened and shared how her mother could be reached.
“It’s no mean feat,” the grad student said of the at least 100-yard swim the girl must have made from the bridge to shore. “She was strong.”
Police said when the child was found, she had visible, but not life-threatening, injuries.
A neighbor of the girl’s grandparents told the Globe that the child and her mother began staying with the older couple a few months ago. The neighbor told the newspaper that the child and her mother were preparing to move to Japan, where the girl’s father is stationed as a Navy officer.
Hubert and the girl’s father have known each other since the fourth grade, according to the Globe.
“She has known him her entire life,’’ Riddle said at Hubert’s dangerousness hearing, the newspaper reported. “She knows him very well.”
Hubert, who has pleaded not guilty, was ordered held on $1 million cash bail Thursday. His lawyer, Richard Welsh Jr., says his client “adamantly denies” the charges against him, according to the Globe.
“The girl was not in the car,” Welsh said. “He did not throw her off a bridge.”
Prosecutors have not suggested a motive for the alleged assault, according to the newspaper. Welsh did not dispute the fact that his client attended the cookout held by the girl’s family, according to the Globe, but said he didn’t leave with the child. He called Hubert a “longtime family friend.”
Welsh later told reporters that Hubert is “very concerned with the fact that the child was injured.”
“I have no idea what actually happened and that’s what we need to get to,” Welsh said.
Hubert was suspended “indefinitely” from his job as a systems support analyst in the technology department at Southborough’s Fay School following his arrest, according to the Globe.
He was hired at the school in July and was still in his probationary period, according to a letter sent by the head of school to parents obtained by the newspaper. Robert Gustavson wrote that Hubert underwent the same criminal background check administered to all prospective employees.
Hubert was involved in a custody dispute with his son’s mother, Valerie Zawalich, in 2009, according to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette. The clash led to Zawalich being fired from her job as a Worcester police dispatcher after she took her son despite Hubert being granted custody of the then 20-month-old boy.
“He’s a gentleman with no record, has had a great life, has donated a lot of time to the community,” Welsh said of his client, speaking to reporters Thursday. “And now he’s sitting in a jail cell with people, quite frankly, he shouldn’t be with.”
Hubert was arraigned on the attempted murder charge he is facing in Westborough District Court on Tuesday, where bail was again set at $1 million, the AP reports.