Fort Worth

He was a vice president at UNT Health Science Center. Now he’s a sex offender

Stephen Barrett will have to register as a sex offender for 10 years after admitting to attempted indecency with a child.
Stephen Barrett will have to register as a sex offender for 10 years after admitting to attempted indecency with a child. Star-Telegram archives

Editor’s note: This story contains graphic descriptions.

A former UNT Health Science Center vice president accused of inappropriately touching his child’s 15-year-old babysitter in 2015 will have to register as a sex offender for 10 years following a plea deal reached in the case.

Stephen D. Barrett, 42, pleaded guilty on Oct. 23 to attempted indecency with a child by contact, a third-degree felony, in exchange for four years deferred adjudication probation.

Though a conviction will not show on his record if he successfully completes his probation, under Texas law he will still be required to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

“We always try to take into account the family’s wishes when a young person is involved, as to whether a child will have to testify,” said Samantha Jordan, a spokeswoman with the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.

“This plea required the defendant admit guilt, register as a sex offender for 10 years, and participate in a closely monitored sex offender counseling program and substance abuse evaluation.”

Barrett’s defense attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.

Barrett had been vice president of operations for the UNT Health Science Center since 2010.

He was fired on October 12, 2016, the same day that Fort Worth police arrested him on a warrant in the case. He was originally charged with indecency with a child/fondling, a second-degree felony.

The teen told police that Barrett had slow music playing when she arrived at his home in July 2015 to babysit his child, according to an arrest warrant affidavit by Detective W.K. Maddox.

She told investigators that Barrett appeared to be flirting with her and asked her, “How adventurous are you?” She accused Barrett of kissing her on the neck and rubbing her thigh and vagina over her clothing, according to the affidavit.

The teen told investigators that she told Barrett to stop, then texted her mother asking to be picked up immediately.

The mother picked up both her daughter and Barrett’s child from the home.

She told investigators that she did not, however, immediately report the incident because she believed Barrett was going to get counseling. She contacted police in September 2015, however, because she felt he was not “cooperating sufficiently,” the affidavit states.

In an interview with Child Protective Services in October 2015, Barrett blamed his behavior on intoxication. He told investigators that he had been hung over and didn’t feel well when the teen had come to his house and decided to have another drink to help feel better.

He said he remembers sitting next to the girl on the couch but not his actions toward her.

“Stephen related that it was clear he ‘did something outlandish’ while he was intoxicated,” Maddox wrote in the affidavit.

The teen had told police that Barrett did not smell of alcohol, nor did he appear in an altered mental state during the encounter.

The case had originally been assigned to Dennis Hutchins, a former detective in the Crimes Against Children unit who was later fired over his mishandling of investigations. It was reassigned to Maddox in May 2016, as part of a task force review of Hutchins’ cases.