A man who says he took in dozens of children over the years at the Mead Valley property he shared with his wife and five sons has been accused of using a “pregnancy test ruse” and Biblical allusions to coerce two teen girls into sex acts, court records say.
Thomas Patrick Hayden, 60, has been charged with four felony sex crimes, including rape, against one teen who lived on his property in 2003 and 2004 and another who lived there in 2011 and 2012, court records say.
Hayden and his wife, 51-year-old Sandra Hayden, also face five child endangerment charges. Authorities said their five sons, ages 10 to 17, were made to live in dangerous and dirty conditions on the family property near Perris.
The case involves allegations of topless target shooting in the desert, reports of a hidden bedroom camera, a ramshackle family compound and lawsuits claiming a Riverside County sheriff’s detective and the code enforcement employee who handled the investigation are “rogue officers.”
The Haydens had a brief hearing in a Riverside courtroom Tuesday, Oct. 9, but did not enter pleas. Their arraignment was rescheduled for Oct. 23.They are free on bail.
Thomas Hayden, who runs a legal assistance business out of his home and is representing himself in the family’s lawsuits against the county, spoke about the criminal case by phone Monday and outside the courtroom Tuesday.
He said the child endangerment allegations are entirely false, and that there is nothing unsafe about their home. The sexual assault claims, too, have no basis in fact, he said.
“It’s totally ridiculous,” he said.
Hayden, who was born without a right hand, said the allegations of sex crimes against an aging man with a serious heart condition are downright implausible. He called his youngest accuser a “strong, street-smart kid,” a school “drug connection” and a thief. He said his family still has a close relationship with the older woman named as a victim and suggested sheriff’s officials lied about what she had said.
Hayden said he is a man of faith who, out of the goodness of his heart, had taken in dozens of girls and boys in need.
He accused Investigator Thomas Salisbury, a 28-year veteran of the department, of having a personal vendetta against him and suggested that sheriff’s and code enforcement officials were out to get him because of pro bono legal assistance he has provided to low-income immigrants in the community.
“I had a long record of helping people that Code Enforcement and the Sheriff’s Department had tried to step on,” Hayden said. “When people stand up, they don’t like that.”
In a lawsuit filed in May, the Haydens accuse the officers of wrongfully putting them out of their home and tormenting their children “to get their jollies.”
Hayden said his family had been living in a mobile home on the property since their house was destroyed in an electrical fire in 2009. He and his family were forced off their Gaston Road property by code enforcement officials in April, Hayden said, and have been staying with friends.
“I want this thing to go to trial,” Hayden said of the criminal case. “I desperately want to get in there and clear my name.”
Riverside County spokesman Ray Smith said he could not comment on pending litigation.
Salisbury also said he could not comment, citing the lawsuit and the ongoing criminal investigation.
“We’re still looking for other victims,” he said.
According to court records, the investigation of Thomas Hayden began in March after the mother of a 17-year-old girl and the girl’s youth minister at Sandals Church in Riverside each reported that Hayden had sexually abused the teen.
The girl said Hayden and his wife lived in the mobile home with their younger sons, and their 17-year-old son stayed with her in a smaller trailer nearby. She described Hayden as a “hoarder,” a search warrant affidavit said, with an “extremely messy” home where there were numerous guns and ammunition scattered about.
Court records describe a series of escalating sexual improprieties with the girl, who told investigators that Hayden had repeatedly interrogated her, making references to God and the Bible and asking explicit questions about her sexual activities with boyfriends
Shortly after she moved in with the family in October 2011, the girl told investigators, Hayden took her shooting in the high desert in San Bernardino County. Making religious references, Hayden convinced her to remove her shirt and her bra and together they spent a couple of hours shooting at clay disks with various guns, the girl told investigators. Hayden touched her bare breasts, and commented on their size, and he took off his own shirt and hugged the girl, court records say.
Over the next few months, Hayden “continuously harangued” the girl about a possible pregnancy, Salisbury wrote in court documents. He insisted on conducting his own supposed pregnancy tests, which the first time consisted of touching and sucking her breast, and the second time involved digital penetration.
The girl said that at one point Hayden gave her a loaded Smith & Wesson revolver for protection and said that she believed he had used a wireless video camera hidden in a smoke detector to watch her in her bedroom.
Court records say Hayden was accused in 2004 of molesting another girl under similar circumstances though no charges were filed against him at the time. It’s unclear why. The girl told sheriff’s officials she was 16 when the alleged sexual assaults began. She, too, said Hayden used a pregnancy test ruse and references to “God’s will” and the Bible to coerce her into sex acts. When investigators spoke with the woman this year, court records say, she repeated the allegations, telling them Hayden had sex with her at least four times from 2003 to 2004.
Investigators served a search warrant April 1 at the Haydens’ property and discovered what Salisbury described in court records as severe child endangerment hazards. It was, he wrote, “extremely filthy, trash littered, rat infested.” Also, he said, there was exposed poison, animal feces and severe electrical hazards. A loaded handgun, as well as other guns and ammunition, were left in areas easily accessible to the children, Salisbury wrote.
On a recent afternoon, heaps of junk were strewn around the 2.3-acre property, which is surrounded by a falling-down chain-link fence. A mobile home, several RVs, a burned-out car, a couple of boats, discarded furniture, a rusted shipping container and more occupied the dirt lot.
Hayden said he is confident he will prevail.
“This thing will go down the toilet,” he said. “I have no doubt.”
BY Sarah Burge
If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.