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Hillsborough County man sexually abused 9 kids over 48-year span, deputies say

Most of the children he abused were between 6 and 9 years old, sheriff’s officials said.
Thomas Lair, 62, of Valrico, is accused of abusing nine children over the course of nearly five decades, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.
Thomas Lair, 62, of Valrico, is accused of abusing nine children over the course of nearly five decades, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]
Published Apr. 29

Nine people have come forward to accuse a Valrico man of sexually abusing them when they were children over a span of nearly five decades, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

Thomas Lair, 62, was initially arrested on April 13 on seven charges of child sexual abuse. Detectives said in a news release at the time that he had abused “numerous” children between 1998 and 2020 and urged other victims to come forward.

On Friday, the sheriff’s office issued another news release saying the total number of victims was now up to nine, and that the abuse stretched back even farther -- to 1972.

Lair is now facing 15 total charges, including 13 counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. He also is charged with sexual battery of a child by an adult; and sexual battery of a child by someone under the age of 18, meaning the accusations stretch back to when Lair was a juvenile.

The Friday news release says most of the victims were 6 to 9 years old at the time they were abused. Detectives said Lair abused the children after befriending them and their families.

“Our detectives are concerned that there could be other children affected, and we are asking anyone else who may be a victim not to be afraid to come forward and speak out,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said in the news release announcing Lair’s initial arrest on April 13. “It’s important for parents to be cautious of any adult they entrust to care for their children and to also listen to their children if they say they are uncomfortable around an individual.”

The sheriff’s office said in its updated news release on Friday that detectives continue to seek other potential victims. Anyone with information can call the agency at 813-247-8200.

Lair was released on bail 12 days after his April 13 arrest, jail records show. Bail information regarding his most recent charges was not yet available Friday.

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