The 71-year-old reportedly threatened to kill the child if the child told anyone about the sexual abuse.

PALM SPRINGS — As an 8-year-old prepared to take a shower Saturday, a man "dragged" the child to his bedroom and raped the child, marking at least the fourth time he had done so, the child told Palm Beach County sheriff’s investigators.


Joseph Cherima, 71, admitted he inappropriately touched the child, according to sheriff’s records. Cherima was arrested Monday on four counts of sexual assault of a minor. He is being held in the Palm Beach County Jail without the possibility of posting bond.


Jail records indicate he lives near Palm Springs, and it appears Cherima shared a home with the child, who referred to him as a "housemate." However, authorities redacted the location of the reported rapes from Cherima’s arrest report.


On Saturday, while the child was in Cherima’s room, someone asked the 71-year-old whether he had seen the child. He said "no," but the child screamed for help until he opened the door about 10 minutes later. The child then told the person that Cherima raped the child "and this is not the first time it happened."


The child told detectives during an interview Sunday that, "it hurt really bad." Cherima reportedly threatened to kill the child if the child told anyone.


The child said Cherima waited until the child was alone and then brought the child either to his bedroom or a bathroom where he would rape the child. The first time this happened, the child’s grandmother was at church, the child said.


The second time, the child was playing at home with a younger sibling and on the third, the child was hanging laundry in the backyard.


If you need assistance, a trained advocate from Palm Beach County Victim Services is available to provide support. You can call the 24-hour helpline at 561-833-7273 or toll free at 866-891-7273. More information is available online at www.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/victimservices.


ohitchcock@pbpost.com


@ohitchcock