Wearing a pink sweater and clutching a stuffed bunny rabbit, the 7-year-old girl spoke in a quavering voice as she answered the prosecutor's questions. The man she knew as "Mr. Mike" had kissed and fondled her numerous times, she told the jury, when her baby sitter left them alone.
The second-grader wiggled in her chair and colored furiously with markers as she told how the man had warned her to not to tell anyone. She put her hand up as if blocking from view the white-haired man sitting at the defense table.
That man, Michael Phillip Hein Sr., 62, was convicted of the sexual abuse of a minor, a third-degree sex offense, and two counts of second-degree assault by an Anne Arundel County Circuit jury in Judge J. Michael Wachs' courtroom yesterday.
Assistant State's Attorney Laura S. Kiessling said Hein had been "grooming" the girl. "He was doing his best to get access to her," she said, as the girl's mother quietly wept in the courtroom. "He was making it into a relationship of sorts."
Two teenage girls called police after they saw Hein kissing the girl in the back seat of a truck parked at Marley Station Mall on March 1.
The girl told police that Hein had kissed her or touched her inappropriately as many as seven times over a period of several months.
The baby sitter, Dorothy Simmons, testified that Hein was a friend who often visited her Glen Burnie apartment when she was taking care of the girl.
Twice she walked into a room to find the man and the girl kissing, she testified, but she did not tell the girl's mother.
Hein, of Brooklyn, told the jury that he was "longing for affection" and had a special bond with the girl but that he did not molest her. Defense attorney Denis O'Connell said that the kissing was "inappropriate" but did not rise to the level of sexual abuse.
Hein could be sentenced to as many as 25 years in prison at a hearing scheduled for Jan. 21.