A Melrose mother who remembers meeting John Burbine on several occasions when she and her friends brought their children to area play groups.
The woman, who asked to speak anonymously, said that she met Burbine, who is facing almost 100 charges involving child sex abuse, this spring at one of the drop-in play groups that are popular with area parents. She estimated that the play groups will typically have as few as three or as many as ten people present.
She recalled that Burbine was there with a young toddler/late infant, "and they were just playing normally, like we were." She said that Burbine told them, very casually, that he took care of children for several families in the area and may have even used the term "nanny" to describe his profession.
Regardless of whether Burbine did use that term, the woman told Patch that she and her friends felt that "something seemed off." Looking back, she acknowledged that a good part of that feeling was the fact that as a middle aged man, Burbine is simply so different from what is considered a typical nanny. She also said that news of the child abuse charges has left her and other mothers she knows very upset.
Burbine allegedly videotaped his abuse of children, prosecutors said. His youngest alleged victim was just eight days old. Burbine plans to plead not guilty, his lawyer told NECN.
"We're just unsettled that he was within a foot of my child. Was he leering at our kids?" said the woman.
"We saw him in the presence of children, and what can you do in hindsight?" she said."I wish I had asked more questions or I wish something else had alerted us."
But one Wakefield mom says she did take those precautions. Before having her son be tutored by Waterfall Education Center, which was run by Burbine and his wife, she checked the state's sex offender database. Burbine wasn't there. She found out later that Burbine's Level 1 sex offense from 1989 wasn't public record.
The Burbine case also seems to have local parents looking at some of their favorite places to bring their children in a new and unfortunate light.
Noting that there are "so many amazing things" in the local area for parents and young children to do, the woman said she is now more likely to be looking over her shoulder now.
She said it's upsetting to think she was in a small play group with Burbine.
"We have taken them all at face value as these wonderful things... but this is where people like this prey on people," she said. "You have to keep your eyes open."