A 76-year-old Rochester man who was allegedly trying to play out his BDSM fantasies involving children must stay in jail following his arrest on Wednesday after a judge at Strafford County Superior Court found there was clear and convincing evidence his release would endanger the public.

Paul Patsalis appeared before the court virtually via Webex due to current COVID-19 protocols. He is accused of having multiple sexual abuse images of children at his residence at 130 Rochester Hill Road and prosecutors say he was actively trying to recruit children for sexual acts.

On Monday, Patsalis was allegedly caught talking to a six-year-old girl at Rochester Commons, which has a playground, bandstand, walking loop and sports field.

The girl's mother allegedly saw Patsalis holding the girl's stuffed animal while touching or rubbing the girl's back. She gave Patsalis a "hard look" so he would go back to the Volkswagen Passat he was driving and called the police.

Court documents show Rochester police began investigating Patsalis for the possession of child sex abuse images on June 24 after a Verizon Wireless employee named Madison Jardin observed text messages on two phones which were related to human trafficking. They included prostitution and requests to meet a minor.

Patsalis texted that it would be "worth 5,000 dollars cash" if he could be introduced to a little girl, according to an affidavit.

Patsalis had left the store so when Jardin became concerned, police were called.

When Patsalis returned, he was met by a police detective, according to the affidavit.

Patsalis drove himself to the police station where he admitted he sexually abused a family member for six years, starting when she was six years old. He also admitted to seeking out escorts and soliciting multiple people for sex "with a 'little girl' for cash money," according to the affidavit.

A search warrant was executed at the residence of Patsalis. A "large volume" of child sex abuse materials were seized, according to the affidavit.

"There was a theme among many of the images and other adult material involving the fetish of spanking and BDSM," the affidavit says.

According to court records, it was the same detective - Det. Adam Govoni - who met Patsalis at Verizon that responded to the Rochester Commons when he allegedly touched the six-year-old girl on Monday.

The call came in at about 4 p.m.

After Govoni spoke to the girl's mother and her friend, he went to Arthur's Market where he identified Patsalis using a receipt and video surveillance, according to a second affidavit in this case.

Govoni went to where Patsalis lived and took a photograph of the Volkswagen Passat parked in the driveway.

Det. Sgt. Patrick Emerson attempted to interview Patsalis at his home on Tuesday about the incident, but he did not want to offer a statement.

On Wednesday, police officials in Rochester asked for the public's help in finding Patsalis using the power of Facebook when he could not be located:

Capt. Todd Pinkham posted a driver's license photo and a picture of the type of vehicle Patsalis was seen driving.

Patsalis was taken into custody within a matter of hours.

During his arraignment on Thursday morning, Patsalis could be seen looking down and sighing from the video conference room at Strafford County House of Corrections.

County Attorney Tom Velardi said Patsalis has shown he is an "imminent and immediate risk" to the public and argued that he should be held at the jail.

"I will note, Mr. Patsalis is a 76-year-old man who has no criminal history, but the enormity of the recent discovery about his actions and his preferences leads the state to believe that there is a primary safety issue here," Velardi said.

Judge Mark Howard agreed.

"I find by clear and convincing evidence that you are a danger to the community," Howard said.

Howard explained that his decision was based upon the nature of the materials found, the attempts Patsalis made to arrange for sexual acts with children present and the fact that Patsalis allegedly touched a six-year-old girl at Rochester Commons on Monday.

If you or your child is the victim of domestic or sexual assault, there is help. HAVEN has offices in Portsmouth, Epping and Rochester. You can call their 24-hour confidential support line at 1-603-994-SAFE (7233).

Contact Managing News Editor Kimberley Haas at Kimberley.Haas@townsquaremedia.com.

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