Ex-New Hope chief pleads guilty to sex abuse

HARRODSBURG — The former executive director of an agency that cared for the mentally disabled pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of sexual abuse and assault under extreme emotional disturbance.

Terry Wallingford, 47, pleaded guilty to seven felonies with sentences to be served concurrently for a total of two years in prison. He has already served about 16 months in jail since his arrest last year.

Wallingford was indicted in 2008 on one count of rape and five counts of first-degree sexual abuse. All the counts involved former employees of New Hope Agency LLC in Burgin in Mercer County, which was closed in the summer after the allegations became public.

New Hope also came under investigation by the state attorney general's office, and that office on Tuesday presented a seventh felony count of wantonly neglecting an adult. The count was presented directly to Mercer Circuit Court Judge Darren Peckler through an "information," a charge that a prosecutor can issue without a grand jury indictment.

Under the plea agreement, the rape charge was amended to assault under extreme emotional disturbance. Three of the original counts of first-degree sexual abuse were also amended to assault under extreme emotional disturbance.

Under the plea agreement, Wallingford agreed not to work in the health care industry in Kentucky nor with a Medicaid or Medicare provider. He also agreed not to work with vulnerable adults.

Wallingford also must register as a sex offender, said Commonwealth's Attorney Richard Bottoms.

James Lowry, Wallingford's attorney, had no comment after the proceeding.

Residents were removed from New Hope in July 2008 for placement elsewhere around the state. At the time of its closing, New Hope had 17 residents and 22 employees.

New Hope offered a variety of services to people with mental and developmental disabilities, including adult foster care and speech, physical and occupational therapy.

Judge Peckler scheduled final sentencing for Jan. 12 in Harrodsburg.