BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — BEVERLY — A former Beverly man will spend four years in state prison, after admitting yesterday that over the course of a decade he molested both of his former girlfriend’s daughters, starting when one of the girls was just 9 years old.
Norman Fertsch, 47, pleaded guilty during a hearing in Salem Superior Court to nine counts of indecent assault and battery on a child. The plea was a result of an agreement accepted by Judge Timothy Feeley.
Prosecutor Kristen Buxton compared Fertsch’s acts, which began in 2000 and continued until just months before his arrest, to “injecting poison” into vulnerable girls, “to take their bodies and use them for his own satisfaction.”
The crimes, the prosecutor said, have also had a devastating ripple effect on the family of the girls and their mother, who in a statement to the court said she cannot forgive herself for bringing Fertsch into their lives.
“Inside my home, where I believed was a safe place for my children, turned out to be a home of torment,” said the mother, who had been in a relationship with Fertsch for years, unaware of the abuse.
The older of the girls told the judge that Fertsch had robbed her of a normal childhood and left her struggling with feelings of anger and humiliation. Her sister, who grapples with the same emotional issues, said the crimes left her humiliated and lacking in self-confidence.
Their grandmother was outraged, saying Fertsch destroyed not only her granddaughters’ self-esteem but her daughter’s, as well.
Fertsch, a carpenter, was living with the victims and their mother in Salem when, starting in the fall of 2000, he began offering the older of her daughters “massages.” Buxton said Fertsch would start with something seemingly innocent, like a back or leg rub, but soon was touching the girl inappropriately.
The abuse continued for about three years, until the older girl was 14.
That’s around the time Fertsch turned his attention to the younger girl, who was 9. Over the next four years, he did the same to her. The abuse continued after the family moved to Beverly.
Both girls remained silent, fearing the effect on their mother if they told her. But eventually, one of the girls confided in a friend, who persuaded her to report the abuse to her mother.
Her sister came forward a few days later to report that she also had been abused, the prosecutor said.
The case was investigated jointly by Beverly and Salem police detectives Jeff Liacos and Lt. Stephen Bona, who sat together behind the girls and their family in court yesterday.
Fertsch’s family, who traveled from Virginia for his sentencing, blew kisses at him as he was led to a courtroom holding dock in handcuffs after the hearing.
Defense lawyer Frank Mondano said little in court, other than to urge Feeley to accept the plea agreement, saying Fertsch is taking responsibility for his actions.
After his release from prison, Fertsch will be on probation for five years. He will be required to register as a sex offender, wear a GPS monitoring bracelet, provide a DNA sample for the state database and take part in sex offender treatment.
He has also been ordered to have no contact with the girls or their family and is barred from unsupervised contact with anyone under 16.
The grandmother of the girls said in a letter she provided to The Salem News that while Fertsch is being punished by the courts, “when he has to meet with the man upstairs, and his final punishment is brought forth from God, his fate will be sealed for all eternity.”
Fertsch was indicted two years ago on nearly three dozen counts, including child rape, but those charges were later reduced to indecent assault and battery as part of the plea agreement.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.