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Fire Captain Accused Of Sexually Assaulting 8-Year-Old Girl Claims He Mistook Her For A Grown Woman, Authorities Say

Michael Palmatier claims he thought he was kissing a woman's mouth instead of a child's genitals during the attack, investigators say.

By Jill Sederstrom

An Arizona fire captain is accused of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl at a party and then later claiming he believed he'd been kissing an adult at the time.

Michael Palmatier, 48, has been charged with sexual conduct with a minor, kidnapping and incident exposure after investigators said he performed an oral sex act on a sleeping child in a bedroom of a home where a 50th birthday party was being held over Easter weekend.

According to court records obtained by The Arizona Republic, Palmatier went into the bedroom, pulled off the child’s pants and began to kiss her genitals, later claiming he believed he was kissing the mouth of an adult at the time.

The young girl told investigators from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office that she woke up to find Palmatier, who had his penis out, assaulting her and she jumped off the bed and locked herself in a bathroom to escape the attack.

Michael William Palmatier

As she was fleeing, she said he grabbed her arm and told her to “wait” and asked her to “please forgive me,” but she was able to escape his grasp and reach the bathroom, the Daily News Sun reports.

The child’s aunt went into the bedroom and saw the young girl leaving the bathroom in tears and asked her what had happened. She told deputies her niece had told her “a man had removed her pants and underwear and licked her,” records state.

Palmatier left the home a short time later, but a male friend of the family went to his home to confront him, the local paper reports. He told authorities that Palmatier “appeared to be extremely intoxicated” when he came to the door and that he repeatedly told the man he had “f---ed up,” according to the records.

A coworker at the Gilbert Fire Department told investigators that Palmatier had a drug and alcohol problem, including abusing the prescription muscle relaxer Soma.

During a recorded phone call set up by authorities between a coworker and Palmatier (Arizona is a one-party consent state), investigators said Palmatier told the coworker he'd taken a muscle relaxer earlier in the day after injuring his neck during a sex act with his adult girlfriend. He also told the coworker he believed he had been kissing an adult woman at the time of the assault.

When the coworker told him it had been an 8-year-old girl he "started to cry" and apologized, telling the coworker he "let his demons get out." 

The coworker told authorities that Palmatier was once a college instructor and used to pursue younger adult females at the time.

In another arranged call with an additional person, the caller asked if Palmatier believed the child was lying about the accusations and he allegedly responded, “No, kids don’t f---ing lie. Kids don’t lie about s--- like that,” local station KPNX reports.

During one of the calls he admitted to the incident but claimed he “would never knowingly do anything sexually to a juvenile,” according to records cited by the Arizona Republic.

He also allegedly told one of the callers he had “a sick side to me, like a sexually sick side to me, but not in that way.”

Palmatier has since resigned from the fire department and was taken into custody. He was released Wednesday after being ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device.

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