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Claremont is still in shock over molestation arrest

Claremont residents remain in shock Thursday after news broke that a Claremont psychologist is being charged with child molestation.

Thomas Gary Amberson, PsyD, a 56-year-old resident of Upland with a psychological practice in Claremont, was charged Wednesday with 4 counts of lewd conduct upon a child and one count of possession of child pornography by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in Pomona.

Claremont police began investigation of the psychologist after a 9-year-old male alleged that Mr. Amberson had made inappropriate contact with him during a counseling session.

This marks the second time police have conducted investigation against Mr. Amberson for supposed lewd conduct. In 2008, a 13-year-old male reported similar inappropriate exchanges with the town psychologist, according to police. Though the District Attorney did not file in the 2008 case due to lack of evidence, the incident will be included as part of the latest criminal filing.  

Police conducted a search of Mr. Amberson’s home on November 15 following the allegation. During the search, detectives say they found a computer containing child pornography. Mr. Amberson was arrested later that day.  Though out after posting $100,000 bail, Mr. Amberson is due back for arraignment at the Pomona courts on December 17, according to Lieutenant Shelly Vander Veen.

Mr. Amberson has declined comment on the case, and his lawyer did not respond to a request for comment as of Thursday afternoon.  

Suzanne Snijder van Wissenkerke of the Claremont Wellness Professionals, of which Mr. Amberson is a member, says she is in disbelief over the news about Mr. Amberson, who she considers to be a dear friend.

“There’s no way,” Ms. Snijder van Wissenkerke said through tears. “Tom is the most professional and nurturing person I know who does what he does.”

Mr. Amberson has been a practicing psychologist for more than 20 years with experience counseling both children and adults. He specializes in children and teen issues such as Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and offers evaluations in learning problems, parenting, abuse, depression, stress, grief and anxiety/panic disorder.

Mr. Amberson received his Doctorate in Psychology from the Rosemead School of Psychology and became licensed in California in March 1987, according to the California Board of Psychology. He maintains a practice off Foothill Boulevard in Claremont.

While he has maintained practice in the Claremont area for a number of years, Lieutenant Shelly Vander Veen says that police do not believe Mr. Amberson has ever been contracted with the city or Claremont Unified School District.

As allegations move forward, Ms. Snijder van Wissenkerke says she remains in support of her friend.

“It’s really easy for allegations to be made,” she said. “My immediate response to Tom is ‘how can we support you?’”

As the D.A. moves forward with Mr. Amberson’s case, Claremont police continues to seek for others linked to this case.

“We commend the 2 minors for their courage in coming forward with these allegations, Lieutenant Shelly Vander Veen stated in the press release. “We believe that there may be additional victims that have not yet come forward.”

The Claremont Police Department is requesting that parents who believe that Mr. Amberson may have victimized their child contact the Claremont Police Detective Bureau at 399-5420.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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