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Child abuse suspect held in Billerica jail

John Burbine, the Wakefield man accused of raping and sexually abusing 13 young children at his wife’s unlicensed day care center, has been moved to a jail in Billerica and is “distraught” and often in tears, his lawyer said in an interview Saturday.

William Barabino said his client is being kept apart from other prisoners and is under close observation at Middlesex House of Correction in Billerica, where he was moved after an initial detention in Cambridge. He declined to say why Burbine was under observation.

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Burbine, 49, is facing 100 indictments in the case, including multiple counts of forcible rape of a child, aggravated indecent assault and battery on a child, and possession of child pornography. The alleged abuse of the children, who ranged in age from 8 days to 3½ years old, took place over two years, from 2010 through August 2012 at the Waterfall Education Center, which his wife, Marian Burbine, ran without a license in downtown Wakefield.

The graphic details of the case, along with revelations that Burbine was a registered sex offender who had several times drawn police scrutiny in recent years, have spurred public outrage. Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone called it “among the most troubling and disturbing cases of child abuse ever prosecuted in Middlesex County.”

In 2005 and 2009, two separate abuse complaints against Burbine went nowhere when the families of the children were “unable or unwilling to go forward,” prosecutors said last week.

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After three 1989 convictions for indecent assault and battery on a child, Burbine was classified as a Level 1 sex offender. Information about Level 1 offenders, who are considered the least likely to reoffend, is not open to the public, something Governor Deval Patrick tried to change in legislation he proposed last year.

That legislation would have made information about Level 1 offenders available upon public request, according to a summary provided by the governor’s office. It also would have required Level 1 offenders to register in person at their local police department, instead of by mail. The bill never came up for a vote.

“I think any law that would help deal with a situation as horrific as this one would be helpful,” Patrick told reporters Friday, though he added that he was unsure any law would have prevented Burbine’s actions. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a parent and get this kind of information about what’s going on at this unlicensed facility.”

On Saturday, state Senator Barry Finegold said he would file legislation requiring day care providers to give families a license-disclosure form to prove their licensure with the state.

“We need to do everything we can as legislators to make sure what happened never happens again,” Finegold said in a phone interview. He noted that while day care centers must display their license, “it’s not something you would actively look for.”

Finegold said that just this week, he and his wife were looking for day care for their 10-month-old son.

The abuse of children so young “sends a cold chill through your spine when you hear something like this,” Finegold said. “They’re the most vulnerable people in our population; they can’t even communicate.”

Various online directories still listed the Waterfall Education Center on Saturday. An online listing with the national nonprofit Better Business Bureau, which had not assigned Waterfall Education Center a rating, was amended to note Burbine’s conviction.

Another site, nannies.com, removed a listing for the Waterfall Education Center after a Globe reporter inquired about it.

An official for FindTheBest.com, Inc., the California company that runs nannies.com, said the information came from the International Nanny Association’s website. The association’s site still had a listing for Waterfall Education Center Saturday, and officials there did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is not clear if the site checks the licensure status of the child care providers in its online directory.

The center’s inclusion on these sites, despite never having a license, highlights the difficulty parents face when searching for reliable child care. Heather Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Education, encouraged parents to consult the list of licensed providers on the office’s website when looking for child care.

“If a parent is concerned, they should really visit our website or give us a call,” Johnson said in a phone interview Saturday afternoon. “We’ll be able to let them know for sure.”

Johnson wouldn’t comment on Finegold’s proposed legislation, citing a lack of details, but reiterated that resources are already in place for parents who seek them out.

Barabino said Burbine will plead not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday in Woburn District Court, explaining that it is “premature” to elaborate on a possible defense strategy if the case goes to trial, as he expects the process of reviewing evidence to be “very extensive.”

“It’s custom and process for every defendant to enter a not guilty plea,” Barabino said. “Once we determine what evidence is admissible, there will be a determination about what the client intends to do.”

Burbine held two jobs, Barabino said, one at an REI sporting goods store in Reading and another as an adjunct professor at North Shore Community College.

A spokeswoman for REI, Megan Behrbaum, acknowledged that Burbine was a former employee of the chain, but would not elaborate on why or when he stopped working there, citing the company’s privacy policy.

Linda Brantley, a spokeswoman for North Shore Community College, said Burbine had worked there since 1999 teaching computer courses, usually at the school’s Lynn campus on weekends. Officials there had no complaints about Burbine during that time, said Brantley.

The school runs background checks on faculty and staff who will work with “vulnerable populations or people in vulnerable circumstances,” Brantley said, but it is not common practice with most job applicants.

Burbine no longer works at the college, Brantley said, but she would not comment on when he left or under what circumstances.

Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com. Find him on Twitter @DanielAdams86.

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