BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Julie Butkowski was 11 years old in the late 1970s when she started babysitting for the married couple two doors down.
Last week, Butkowski, who is now in her 50s, revealed in court papers what she claims was a dirty little secret hidden inside the brick ranch on Brighton Road in the Town of Tonawanda.
The man whose children she babysat -- William J. Croker, who now owns an auto repair shop in the town -- was a child molester who assaulted and raped her, Butkowski claims in court papers.
“She realizes that when she was in her high school years, she didn't have the level of maturity to be able to stand up for herself when she was being manipulated by an adult,” said Christopher O’Brien, an attorney who is representing Butkowski. “For years, she has wanted to do something about this, but she had no opportunity. But now, with the change in the law, she has that opportunity and she's no longer willing to be manipulated.”
Butkowski filed a lawsuit Dec. 18 in State Supreme Court under the Child Victims Act, claiming that from 1979 to 1984, she “was regularly sexually assaulted, groped, sodomized, and raped” by Croker, who hired her to babysit his kids.
Butkowski was between 12 and 17 years old at the time of the alleged assaults, which allegedly took place in the home on Brighton Road and in other places like Croker’s car, the lawsuit states.
Croker no longer lives in the home in which the assaults are alleged to have occurred, but he does appear to own Brighton One Stop Automotive, also located on Brighton Road in the Town of Tonawanda.
A man who answered the phone at Brighton One Stop last week said Croker was out to lunch and that he would pass along a message seeking comment. The message was not returned.
The lawsuit also names Barbara Landon -- Croker’s then-wife -- claiming that she “knew or should have known” of the alleged sexual abuse and rape. Landon now lives in North Carolina.
Steven Cohen, a Buffalo attorney who is representing Landon, said Landon is divorced from Croker and has not yet been served with the lawsuit.
"It's our understanding that all the allegations are against William Croker, but once we are served with papers, we'll be able to give a more substantive response," Cohen said by phone.
Through her lawyer, Butkowski declined requests to be interviewed about the alleged assault. 7 Eyewitness News does not generally name alleged victims of sex crimes, but O’Brien said Butkowski did not want to file the suit as a “Jane Doe” and said she approved of reporters identifying her in stories.
“She realizes that some people are nervous about having their names out there, and she respects that,” O’Brien said. “But given that this is not a suit which is against an organization or a church, but instead is against an individual, she wants people to know that... this really happened.”
O’Brien seemed surprised that Croker has not responded either in court papers or to reporters who called his shop.
“We look forward to his response, and we hope that it will be an apology,” O’Brien said. Click here to read the lawsuit.