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Firefighter's charges to be dropped.

Byline: Danielle M. Horn

WORCESTER - A city firefighter is expected to return to work after a grand jury decided there was no evidence warranting the pursuit of a child rape case brought against him in March.

The Worcester County grand jury's return yesterday of a "no bill" means that the current charges against 34-year-old Jeremy E. O'Connell will be dropped.

"When the chief receives the proper paperwork releasing (Mr. O'Connell) from the charges, he will be ordered back to work," said Fire Capt. William P. Metterville, department spokesman.

Mr. O'Connell, of 208 Perry Ave., Apt. 3, has been out on $35,000 bail since his arraignment on March 4 in Central District Court. A day earlier, he had been arrested while on duty at the Webster Square Fire Station. Prosecutors alleged Mr. O'Connell last year raped a 7-year-old girl who was "well-known" to him. Police also charged Mr. O'Connell with open and gross lewdness in connection with the alleged abuse.

A grand jury was tasked yesterday with evaluating testimony from the prosecution and voting whether the case would be moved to Superior Court. If it had returned a "true bill," the case would have gone forward. A "no bill," returned far less frequently than true bills, means that the members of the jury voted not to indict.

Mr. O'Connell is expected to appear in District Court tomorrow, when his case will likely be formally dismissed, said Timothy J. Connolly Jr., spokesman for Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.

The grand jury's decision does not preclude prosecutors from pursuing a case against Mr. O'Connell if more evidence comes forward.

Defense lawyer Tom G. Vukmirovits said in March that Mr. O'Connell denied and was shocked by the charges. He said Mr. O'Connell has four children, including two who live with him.

Prosecutors brought evidence to the grand jury after an investigation locally and in Georgia, Mr. Connolly said. Assistant District Attorney Joseph J. Reilly III had noted in March that Mr. O'Connell's accuser and her mother were planning on moving out of the area.

Mr. O'Connell has worked for the Fire Department for nine years. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 13, 2010
Words:362
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