WASHINGTON – A former janitor at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center will be held in jail until at least Monday on charges that he assaulted four women at the facility by masturbating into their coffee.
Goddard officials also claim that Elwood Dehaven Jones left “sexually explicit” notes behind for his victims.
At a federal detention hearing in Greenbelt Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jillyn K. Schulze ordered Jones held until Monday to give Maryland officials time to charge him with violating probation on an unrelated charge, according to his public defender. The earlier state charge could not be determined Tuesday.
Jones, 29, was charged Friday by federal prosecutors because the incidents occurred on a federal installation. An official with the NASA Inspector General’s Office, which investigated the case before referring it to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said that Jones was “caught on videotape” in at least one instance.
Jones has since been fired from his janitorial job by Melwood, an Upper Marlboro-based social service agency that provides job training, employment placement and housing for mentally handicapped people.
“Allegations of illegal behavior by an employee were brought to our attention February 7th,” Melwood spokesman Brian Dixon said in a prepared statement. “The employee was immediately taken off duty pending investigation. The employee has been terminated.”
The statement went on to say that Jones tested negative for any communicable diseases. It also said that all prospective Melwood employees undergo “thorough” background checks, and that this was an isolated incident.
But one of Jones’ reported victims is angry at the handling of the case by both Melwood and Goddard officials.
Linda Gehrmann, a Raytheon contractor at Goddard, is upset that while Jones was handcuffed and thrown off the facility on Feb. 7, workers in building 33 were not notified of the incidents until two days later.
“My biggest gripe is, why did they make us wait from February 7th until February 9th?” she asked Tuesday.
It was Gehrmann who told WJLA-TV that her coffee tasted “salty.”
“When I sipped my coffee about three times in the last two weeks. . .it tasted salty,” she said again in an interview Tuesday.
Gehrmann also said Goddard failed to provide adequate counseling for the contract employees, as opposed to the federal employees.
“There was no crisis counseling whatsoever (for contractors),” she said. “I’m left all week to cope with this because I’m a contractor.”
Goddard officials have since provided medical testing and counseling to any employee who wants it, according to the public affairs office.
“We were as concerned as the employees were,” said Mark Hess, Goddard’s deputy chief of public affairs. “What we have made clear is that if they have any feelings of stress or fear, to please contact us and we’ll put them in touch with our physicians and counselors.”
Hess would not say how many of the 600 to 700 employees in building 33 sought out help. But one employee in the building said reactions to the news ranged from extreme upset to indifference.
Gehrmann believes that there are many more than four victims.
“There’s a lot more victims in that building, but they’re not going to have a leg to stand on because they don’t have the evidence,” she said. “How was I supposed to know to save my coffee from two weeks earlier?”
Gehrmann, who has since been moved off Goddard, said the episode has caused her great anxiety and mental stress.
“I’m working at Raytheon headquarters in Lanham for the time being,” she said. “Raytheon has been there for me, Goddard has not.”
Jones’ attorney said he could not comment on the case Tuesday because he had not seen any of the government’s evidence.
“All I’ve seen is the affidavit and the complaint,” said Dave Thomas, the public defender. “We are still in the discovery process.”
Thomas said he fought the continued detention of his client but, “the government was able to convince the judge that they needed this time.”
He said it is standard for defendants to be held for three days in the federal system, and it is not uncommon for their detention to be extended a week beyond that before they have the equivalent of a bail hearing.