The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has dropped all charges against the former owner of a now-closed Bella Vista day-care center who in 2017 was accused of sexually assaulting two children in his care, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.
Prosecutors moved last month to drop the case against Duncan Round, according to court records. Round, 54, of Burlington County, was the owner and operator of Sprouts Daycare & Philly Kids Gym, 604 S. Ninth St.
Ben Waxman, spokesperson for District Attorney Larry Krasner, said in an email that the available DNA evidence in the case was inconclusive.
“This is not always a barrier to prosecution, but for this case, that evidence was crucial in order to move forward to trial,” Waxman said. He did not elaborate on other reasons for the dismissal, and said the office would have no further comment related to the case.
Round did not respond to requests for comment. His attorneys, Gary Silver and Anthony Petrone, declined to comment.
In interviews Thursday and Friday, parents who had enrolled their children at Round’s facility praised his character and questioned why the police and the District Attorney’s Office charged him based on what the parents believe were questionable allegations.
“It was truly sad to see this hyper-aggressive prosecution. He was guilty before being found innocent,” said Salvatore Sandone, whose son, Nexen, 6, attended Sprouts from the ages of 6 months to 4 years.
“What they accused him of was uncharacteristic of what I know about Duncan,” added Sandone, who said he has an education doctorate and operates his own school-age child-care program in South Philadelphia. “I didn’t believe it when I heard it.”
Some parents, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their children’s privacy, said the molestation allegations could not be credible because other adults and children would have been present when the alleged crimes occurred.
“What Duncan and one of his coworkers were being accused of was outlandishly impossible,” said a father of two former Sprouts children.
A father of a son with special needs who was enrolled at Sprouts said city law-enforcement officials took extraordinary measures to try to prove that an innocent man was guilty, and ruined his business and life in the process.
“They laid out the red carpet for more victims to come forward, and not a one did — nothing,” he said.
Round was arrested in August 2017 and faced a host of charges, including two counts each of rape of a child, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, and unlawful contact with a minor. Charging documents accused him of abusing two children at the day care in July 2017.
The alleged victims were not identified, but several parents said the woman who accused Round of molesting her young son and daughter had threatened to sue him after accusing him of being responsible for an injury to her son while at the day care. Public records show no such lawsuit has been filed.
Round’s lawyer at the time of his arrest, Brad V. Shuttleworth, said then that Round was innocent and had passed a polygraph test. Still, Municipal Court Judge James M. Lynn ruled at a preliminary hearing that month that prosecutors had presented enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial. The standard of proof required to move beyond a preliminary hearing is lower than that required to secure a conviction at trial.
Round had been scheduled to face a jury last month, but the District Attorney’s Office decided to withdraw the case. Prosecutors did not provide any reasons in court documents finalizing the dismissal.
Earlier this month, Round sent an email to former Sprouts parents notifying them of the decision by the prosecutor’s office, calling the ordeal “a difficult and destructive process” for him, his family, and his coworkers.