NJ bus driver molested girls during ‘hide and seek’ outside school, cops say
KINNELON — Parents trusted their children's safety in the hands of a 70-year-old school bus driver. But authorities say he was a predator who groomed his victims and brazenly molested them right outside their school.
Thomas Thomasevich was arrested Feb. 18, about a month after the first reported victim came forward to reveal how "Bus Driver Tom" had been fondling her during a "touching game," which other students identified as "hide and seek."
Court documents and statements made this week in Superior Court in Morristown revealed details about the accusations, which were first reported last week. A judge on Monday ordered that the Oakland resident be held behind bars until his trial.
Authorities say Thomasevich molested two girls under the age of 13 in the school bus in front of four classmates on an almost daily basis from October until Jan. 14. Officials did not give exact ages of the children.
In an interview with investigators on the day he was arrested, Thomasevich acknowledged that he played a game with the children and he conceded that he "may have touched" one of the girls multiple times in inappropriate places, authorities said. He denied touching the other girl.
Prosecutors said Thomasevich groomed and plied the victims by offering them candy and doughnuts and by allowing them to ride the bus without seat belts and walk around while the bus was in motion.
One victim said Thomasevich touched her vagina and inner thigh during the games, which happened after he picked up the children early and parked in front of the school in Kinnelon before it was time for students to be let in the building, investigators said in an affidavit of probable cause.
Another victim told investigators that he touched her breast and vagina.
Four other students on the bus were interviewed in January by investigators who said that all of the children reported seeing the molestation.
One girl said she told the driver to stop touching her private parks but Thomasevich reportedly told her that his eyes were closed and that he didn't mean to touch her there.
During a detention hearing on Monday, Thomasevich's attorney said the allegations were a “huge misunderstanding" and argued that this client had a "spotless record" and family ties to the area.
Investigators said that Thomasevich acknowledged in an interview that one of the girls had confronted him about him touching her in inappropriate places. Investigators said he claimed that he explained to her that the touching was not intentional because his eyes were closed.
Thomasevich is charged with four counts of second-degree sexual assault, two counts of third-degree child endangerment through sexual conduct and six counts of fourth-degree child cruelty and neglect.
Thomasevich was employed by First Student Bus Co. in Butler.
In a separate but similar case, police in 2018 charged a then-84-year-old Montgomery man with molesting at least nine children while he was a school bus driver. The case was opened after two adult men came forward to report what Edward Atoeff had done to them when they had been 8 and 12 years old, respectively.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.