Former daycare worker sentenced to 24 years in prison

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EAU CLAIRE COUNTY, Wis. (WEAU) -- "I would say this crime here is every parent's worst nightmare," said James Small, Altoona's Police Chief.

From start to finish, he has been there for what has been an emotional and difficult case for the whole community. A former daycare worker, charged with sexually assaulting six young kids.

"This is the biggest case I've seen since I've been Chief in Altoona," he said.

All of it started back in June when one child said he had been inappropriately touched by Thomas West. Small says they began an aggressive investigation.

"It was a very serious allegation when it came out and turned out to be an extremely serious case," he said.

It has meant a lot of time and emotions for anyone who has been involved, especially parents with affected children. A few of them spoke in court today; the judge has asked us not to identify them.

They worry about their kid’s sense of trust being broken and what effects this will have on their future.

"I'd really feel for the parents today, my thoughts go out to them," he said.

We also heard from West as well. While his attention was pointed toward the judge, his words were directed at the parents, accepting the consequences for his actions.

"All the trust, support and love they gave to me was met with acts too terrible to recall and too awful to comprehend," West said. "I deserve the shame, loneliness, and guilt I put upon myself."

Small says as a father himself, this kind of case is difficult to work on. He says anytime you take your kids to daycare, you trust people are doing the right things.

"And in this particular instance, that's not what happened, fortunately it's a very rare occurrence and in most cases they are doing the right thing," Small added.

And even though it is a small group involved in the legal aspect of all this, Small says the effects are much greater.

"There's literally hundreds of families affected by this, so it goes beyond even the six victims today, this is a significant case for the entire community.


EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A former daycare worker will spend the next two decades in prison for sexually assaulting kids.

26-year-old Thomas West was sentenced to 24 years in prison Monday and 15 years on extended supervision. He was convicted of sexually assaulting six children while working at an Altoona daycare.

It was a very emotional time in the courtroom for parents who had a child sexually assaulted by West. Some of the parents went before the judge to talk about the impact all of this has had on both them and their kids.

Many of them talked about the betrayal they felt and the effects this will have on their kids later in life.

The judge said this comes down to kids, saying "we will look after our children here in Eau Claire County."

West also spoke for about five minutes. He told the court "by my actions I have created disorder, to only which justice can restore."

His attorney says the sentence was on par with what was anticipated.

"I figured he wouldn't get less than 20 years," said John Bachman, West's attorney. "I didn't expect it to go a whole lot higher than that, Mr. West is actually quite relieved that it's all over.

The judge says the sentence is also about protecting the community. Part of the extended supervision includes no unsupervised contact with anyone under 18-years-old without prior approval, no computer or internet usage without agent approval, and no working at a job or volunteering with anyone under the age of 18.

West is not eligible for an early release program.