Columbus mental health worker charged with sexual assault faced similar accusations in 2016

Matthew Gatton

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A mental health worker who was recently charged with sexual assault faced similar accusations in 2016.

A family is speaking out about Matthew Gatton, hoping others might get the courage to do the same.

10TV has learned the alleged victim is a relative and another young boy.

Matthew Gatton appeared in front of a Franklin County judge Tuesday morning on two felony counts of gross sexual imposition.

Westerville police said Gatton confessed to fondling a child dozens of times while in his care.

Members of Gatton's family said he molested their son and those parents said they believe there are more victims.

"There were just signs, lots of signs over the years," one parent said.

To protect their identity and share their story, 10TV is not naming the parents of the victim.

"There were just situations that were extremely alarming," one parent said.

This family says it has been a rough few years.

The parents say their 10-year-old son has been sexually abused by Gatton.

"So since 2012, he always took a special interest in him," one parent said.

Gatton had been around their son for years because he was family.

"Like you don't want to believe it, you know," a parent said.

But the mother started to notice strange behavior.

"Him (Gatton) always wanting to bathe my son, and he was old enough to bathe himself," she said.

She said Gatton's behavior toward her son continued for about four years, until the boy gained the courage to tell.

"My son and I were alone in my room and he started telling me a story about a time that Matt grabbed him and made him sit on his lap," she said.

The mother said her then 7-year-old boy told her about inappropriate touching, sleepovers and more.

She said Gatton threatened her son, saying "if you ever tell anyone you're going to jail."

"He was fondling him," she said.

The family said they immediately cut ties with Gatton in 2016 and filed a police report.

"I think we're fortunate that my son was brave enough even though he was threatened by Matt," one parent said.

The investigation into the family's accusation did not go anywhere.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said "this was a two-year-old allegation that the police and we were not able to corroborate. Given the burden of proof we have in a criminal case, we didn't feel we had the ability to go forward."

"It's always lingered that they couldn't do anything in our case," a parent said.

Now that Gatton is behind bars, the parents say it is a relief.

"The amount of closure that that brings even in something that we felt pretty hopeless with is pretty amazing," one parent said.

The family said they're grateful another had the courage to speak up.

"I am so thankful for that family that came forward again, and put him away," a parent said.

They hope people will listen.

"I think moms whose sons have been alone with this man, they need to sit their children down and have a talk," a parent said.

This family believes more victims, like their son, are out there.

"So we say everybody come forward. If you have any concerns, cause then we can guarantee people are safe longer," one parent said.

A judge ordered Matthew Gatton be held on a $500,000 bond.

Westerville Police want to hear from anyone with additional information on Gatton. The department's tip line is 614-901-6866.