Top News Story! Cal Locker Room Bandit!
October 13, 2010
A man dressed like a woman has used a cell phone to photograph women in a UC Berkeley locker room twice this month, according to a university crime alert posted online. On Oct. 4 at 9:20 p.m. and again on Oct. 6 at 4:30 p.m., the man disguised as a woman was discovered in the Recreational Sports Facility women's locker room. In both instances, the man fled. Details about his disguise were not immeidately available. No one was physically contacted or injured. The suspect was described as short, in his 20s, with a thin build and dark brown or black hair. After each occurrence, university police searched the area but did not find the man. No one was physically contacted or injured, police said.
CDC Inmate Melissa Huckaby!
June 15, 2010
STOCKTON — Melissa Huckaby (child rapist-killer, pictured left) sobbed on Monday while a slide show about Sandra Cantu, the girl she murdered, was played Monday in the San Joaquin Superior Court in Stockton.
A newly released court document shows that Melissa Huckaby drugged her 8-year-old neighbor, Sandra Cantu, and sexually assaulted her with a rolling pin before stuffing her body into a suitcase and throwing it into a Tracy irrigation pond last year. Sandra's body was found with a blood-soaked cloth knotted into a noose, and her official cause of death was listed as "homicidal asphyxiation," according to court records that had previously been under gag order. At a press conference, prosecutor Thomas Testa said there was evidence of isopropyl alcohol on the cloth, which authorities believed was used to smother the girl.
Facing a sentence of life in prison without parole, Melissa Huckaby apologized this morning for kidnapping and killing Sandra. "I wish I can bring Sandra back, but I can't," said a weeping Huckaby, who was shackled at the feet and dressed in a red jail jumpsuit. Huckaby said she still cannot understand why she committed the crime, but that Sandra did not suffer (Melissa's kidding) and, contrary to reports, was not sexually molested.
For her crimes, Huckaby, a 29-year-old former Sunday school teacher, will spend of the rest of her natural life in prison without the possibility of parole. In a surprise move, she pleaded guilty last month to murdering and kidnapping Sandra. In exchange, prosecutors took the death penalty off the table and dropped sexual abuse charges. Also dropped were charges in two unrelated drugging cases involving another Tracy girl and a Hayward man whom police today said was her ex-boyfriend. A theft case she was facing from Tracy was terminated.
to a Neighborhood
to a Neighborhood
May 26, 2010
Donald Schmidt (pictured above, center) was convicted of sodomizing and drowning a toddler in the bathtub of a Lompico cabin in 1988. Schmidt, 38, and the oldest ward of the state, is set to be paroled in a month to a group home in Lancaster. In 1988, Schmidt, then a 16-year-old Fremont runaway high on methamphetamine, sodomized a 3-year-old girl and drowned her in a bathtub at a Lompico house where he was a guest.
The next year, he was convicted as a juvenile and entered the California Youth Authority, where juveniles are typically not incarcerated beyond age 25. The Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office relied on a little-used provision of state law to extend his incarceration because attorney's there believe his mental disorders make him a danger to the public.
Eleven months ago the D.A.'s Office cut a deal with Schmidt. He would serve one more year in the California Division of Juvenile Justice, then be on parole for three years and abide by a long list of conditions. Schmidt has been diagnosed as a sexual sadist, pedophile and sociopath. A judge ruled in 1989 that Schmidt had been charged with the wrong sex crime and an appeals court overturned the sodomy conviction, meaning he will not have to register as a sex offender when released.
December 25, 2009
A school bus driver convicted of molesting and taking pornographic photos of young girls has been sentenced to 151 years to life in prison. Orange County prosecutors say Buena Park resident Terry Lee Shields (pictured left) was convicted of 15 felonies earlier this month, including kidnapping and forcible lewd acts on a minor. Shields molested the girls, had them pose for graphic photos, and was later caught looking at child pornography at Bellflower cyber cafe.
The 55-year-old's victims were 5, 7 and 11 years old, and two of them were abused over a period of three years. In a plea for harsh sentencing, the mother of the 5-year-old said at Thursday's hearing that her daughter is mentally disabled and the full extent of her injury may never be known.
December 23, 2009
GEORGETOWN, Del. – Dr. Earl Bradley (pictured left) a pediatrician is charged with sexually abusing his child patients. State Prosecutors say it is likely the pediatrician attacked more than 100 children at an office he had decked out with a merry-go-round and a ferris wheel. According to a deputy attorney general assigned to Delaware's Child Predator Task Force, the volume of evidence seized from the doctor's practice and home, including graphic video tapes and computer files, makes it difficult to estimate the exact number of victims. "I'm comfortable in saying probably well over 100 potential victims," the same official said at a news conference with Attorney General Beau Biden state officials. "As of this moment, we have not identified all of the victims in this case, and the investigation is ongoing in an aggressive fashion," Biden said. The media, on Tuesday, cited a detective's sworn statement that said evaluation of seized video files and software has discovered 15 more unidentified victims.
Police say Bradley used video cameras to record some of the attacks. An 18-page document detailed the alleged attacks in exam rooms, which had Disney themes such as Pinocchio, at BayBees Pediatrics, Bradley's solo practice. A detective who viewed the assaults described in court papers the 6-foot, 225-pound Bradley as having a "violently enraged expression on his face" in one video involving a 2-year-old.
The criminal investigation is focusing on cases between 1998 and the present. Bradley, 56, was arrested last week and is being held in prison on $2.9 million bond. He has been charged with 33 felony counts relating to seven victims. The alleged crimes cited in court papers happened between August and December 2009. Police said they learned of the alleged abuse when a 2-year-old girl told her mother that the doctor had hurt her during a Dec. 7, 2009 appointment.
The case is even more chilling because some alleged victims are no more than 6 months old. "It's horrific," said Wallace Hudson, vice president of Beebe Medical Center just blocks from Bradley's home. Bradley had privileges at the hospital which were immediately suspended when he was arrested. Pennsylvania's state board of medicine also announced an immediate temporary suspension of Bradley's license there. Hudson said Bradley had been in the area since 1994. He said the hospital has arranged for counseling for patients and their parents. He also said doctors who already have full practices have arranged to take Bradley's patients, who he estimated "runs in the thousands." Bradley also had medical licenses in Florida and New Jersey. "We are looking into that at this time," authorities said.
Bradley's office was known for its many toys and the rides he had in front. On Wednesday, the deserted office looked more like a small run-down carnival than a pediatric office, including a small merry-go-round and Ferris wheel. A pink sign in front of one building read: "Princess Parking only. All Others will be toad."
Mike Duckworth, treasurer of the Bethel United Methodist Church near Bradley's home, said the charges have brought "a lot of shock" in the neighborhood and to the parents of children in the church's preschool program. "There was a time when Dr. Bradley was the new and exciting pediatrician in town," Duckworth said. Duckworth said his granddaughter had two appointments with Bradley, but his daughter decided to get a new doctor about four years ago after Bradley asked to see the girl alone. "There was a point in the examination when he wanted to take my granddaughter away and my daughter wouldn't let him do that," Duckworth said.
A preliminary hearing Wednesday was postponed until Jan. 14, 2009. His attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A deputy attorney general, said Bradley was not brought to the courthouse for Wednesday's hearing because corrections officials are "concerned about his mental state right now," adding that there were concerns the doctor was suicidal.
Prof. Pervo back in the classroom!
December 23, 2009
“There’s no reason why [district administrators] could claim that they didn’t know what was going on — except incompetence. They knew what was going on, they just passed him on anyway. ... Somebody had to call up and say, ‘Put this guy back in a position[.]’”
-- Longtime Los Angeles Unified School teacher Mat Taylor on LAUSD's claim of ignorance about the past history of Markham Middle School molester Steven Rooney.
The L.A. Unified has continually failed to follow up on complaints against teachers who are accused of sexual abuse against students. Prosecutors rarely try extremely difficult molestation cases because they often depend heavily on the accounts of young, frightened and shame-filled victims. Once police drop charges, or prosecutors refuse to prosecute criminal actions against these teachers, L.A. Unified accepts the accused teacher back, leaving students vulnerable to molesters. Recently, three girls testified in a successful civil lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School district that teacher's aide Ricardo Guevara molested them. One 13-year-old on the witness stand looked to be an ordinary adolescent, her diffident smile unveiling a set of braces. Her attorney began gently, with questions about her favorite band and trips to the mall. Then he brought up "Mr. Ricardo" and second grade. The girl buried her face in her hands and sobbed.
When her mother took the stand, she testified that the girl had not been the same since the day the teacher's aide put his hands on her. "I just believe this whole thing changed her life," the mother said. "I don't see her so confident around people. . . . I believe she has no interests." A jury late last year ordered the Los Angeles Unified School District to pay nearly $1.6 million to the families of three girls molested by Ricardo Guevara, who is now serving 15 years in prison for lewd acts with a child.
But there was something the jury -- and the public -- was never told: This was the third set of accusations that Guevara had molested students. Twice before, when law enforcement officials refused to prosecute, L.A. Unified officials had quietly put him back in the classroom. Guevara's case fits a pattern, an investigation shows: Repeatedly, the district failed to follow up on sexual misconduct complaints against employees once police or prosecutors dropped criminal actions. Some ended up at new schools. In at least one instance -- involving Guevara -- the new principal had no idea of his history.
Teachers point out that students at times fabricate sexual abuse allegations. But instructors are entitled to due process, including administrative and court hearings if necessary. However, in three separate cases documented by the investigation, each of the three L.A. Unified District teachers previously accused of sex abuse, but retained as an employee, went on to be charged with or convicted of molesting a different student, other than the one who previously complained. For example:
* A L.A. Unified elementary school teacher was investigated for allegedly molesting a fourth-grader in 2001. After prosecutors declined to pursue the case, he was transferred to other schools and eventually molested a student in 2004. Convicted of a lewd act, he was sentenced to six years in prison.
* Another L.A. Unified elementary school teacher was accused in 2002 of repeatedly forcing a female student to sit on his lap and pose for a camera. Police recommended that the district pursue the issue "administratively." School leaders handled the matter by telling him to stop. The teacher later pleaded no contest to sexual abuse of a child and received 16 years in prison.
* Steve Thomas Rooney, an assistant principal at Markham Middle School in Watts, was arrested last year on suspicion of sexually assaulting a student, sparking public outrage and calls for reform. In 2007, prosecutors had declined to prosecute Rooney for allegedly waving a gun at the stepfather of a student with whom he was suspected of having had a sexual relationship.
Nothing prevents L.A. Unified from looking further into cases that police or prosecutors decline to pursue. Indeed, district policy has long required school officials to perform an independent inquiry. Under state law, the district can fire teachers for conduct it deems immoral or unprofessional, even if the acts fall short of criminality. Rooney, for instance, allegedly showed up at the house of the first student at night and drove her around in his car. Had the district substantiated this, it might have been grounds for dismissal. In the meantime, "if there's some smoke there, then we should err on the side of the security and safety of students," said district Supt. Ramon C. Cortines. That's the policy.
The reality, the investigation found, is that the district has erred on the side of protecting its staff. To protect employees' privacy, files containing past misconduct allegations generally do not follow them to a new campus, according to the district. As a result the accused is free to molest other unsuspecting students.
Rooney (pictured left) an assistant principal at the time of his arrest, was sentenced to eight years in prison for molesting four girls at two Los Angeles schools. Rooney pleaded no contest in August (2009) to four counts, including a lewd act on a child under 14. Two Markham Middle School students were molested between January and March 2008, and two others were students at Foshay Learning Center when the molestions began. Rooney worked as a teacher and later dean of students at Foshay, and as an assistant principal at Markham. He was fired by the school district after the investigation.
Until a year or so ago there was no centralized system for tracking employees accused of child molestation or other serious crimes from school to school. The district relied on index cards that were supposed to be placed in an employee's file to indicate an accusation had been made, according to sworn depositions by district personnel in various civil cases. Even that didn't always happen. "We didn't do a very good job, historically, on capturing a lot of that," David Holmquist, the district's chief operating officer, said in an interview.
Repeated accusations! Steven Rooney!
WHEN FORMER LOS ANGELES SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT David Brewer declared that top district officials were unaware of the past behavior of Markham Middle School molester Steven Rooney, longtime teacher Mat Taylor claimed he was appalled. He’d known Rooney when they worked together at Fremont High School, and the picture fresh in his mind was an unpleasant one.
According to Taylor, a little over a year ago he filed an official grievance charging that Rooney exhibited violence, shoving another administrator, while he was, ironically, vice principal in charge of discipline at the sometimes troubled Fremont campus. “They had their warnings,” Taylor told the media. “There’s no reason why [district administrators] could claim that they didn’t know what was going on — except incompetence. They knew what was going on, they just passed him on anyway. ... Somebody had to call up and say, ‘Put this guy back in a position’” that resulted in his transfer to unsuspecting Markham.
Media accounts have reported that Rooney was investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department for statutory rape at Fremont [High School] before being arrested on March 4, 2009 for allegedly sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl who attended Markham. But according to Taylor, Rooney had well-known anger-management issues at Fremont. Taylor’s allegations dispute Brewer’s premise that district administrators did not realize they had a problem on their hands when they moved Rooney to Markham. In fact, school-district policy calls for a standard of internal investigation that is far more strict than LAPD’s threshold of criminal wrongdoing.
In October 2008, a former dean pleaded no contest to failing to turn over evidence to authorities regarding an alleged sexual relationship between Steven Thomas Rooney, a former teacher at Foshay Learning Center, and a student.
The first complaint against Guevara came in 1995, when the teacher's aide was working part time at the 37th Street Early Education Center in the Exposition Park area. A 9-year-old student reported that he had taken her into a closet and asked her to lower her pants, according to a sheriff's report contained in court records. The principal reported the incident to both L.A. Unified and the Los Angeles Police Department, according to police documents. But the records say the girl gave inconsistent accounts. Guevara, who denied the allegation, was never charged with a crime. He was cleared to return to work at the same school, according to court documents.
Several years later, he was hired full time at the Miramonte Early Education Center near Huntington Park. District administrators knew of the 1995 accusation, but no one informed school leaders, according to an associate principal's 2008 deposition.
In 2002, a 6-year-old accused "Mr. Ricardo" of repeatedly touching her groin during class one day. Guevara was removed from the school and assigned to a district office where he had no access to children, while sheriff's deputies investigated, according to the deposition of Elizabeth Blackwell, the associate principal. Blackwell supported him during the investigation because she thought he was a good employee, she told sheriff's investigators, according to their 2003 report filed in court.
After initially denying that he had touched the student, Guevara admitted he may have accidentally touched her crotch when several male students jumped on his back, according to the sheriff's report. Detectives forwarded the case to the district attorney's office. But with no witnesses besides the child, who over time mixed up details of what had occurred, prosecutors declined to pursue the case. Guevara returned to Miramonte to work with children.
His career as a teacher's aide ended only on Nov. 6, 2003, when a Miramonte parent reported that she had seen Guevara reach into the back of a girl's pants on the playground. The report prompted the two other girls to come forward with similar allegations. In 2005, a jury convicted Guevara of multiple counts of lewd acts with a child. Blackwell "told me she felt really bad that she allowed [Guevara] to be near the girls," the sheriff's investigator wrote in his report. In deposition testimony, the administrator said she would have supervised Guevara more closely had she known of the allegations dating to 1995.
Even when they know about sexual abuse complaints, some school leaders rely on police to substantiate them without thoroughly following up themselves.
In 2002, a student reported that Michael McMurray, a fourth-grade teacher at Plainview Avenue Elementary School in Tujunga, had on several occasions forced a girl to sit on his lap and pose for a camera, according to school officials' later depositions and a report of suspected child abuse. Police arrived on campus to investigate but concluded that "there was nothing there," and recommended that the matter be addressed by administrators, according to the principal's later deposition.
After learning that police had been called, McMurray "fled from the school" in the middle of the day, telling his bosses later that he had had an anxiety attack, according to a police detective's deposition in 2007. School administrators did not report McMurray's behavior to police at the time, the detective said, and officers did not interview the teacher.
Principal Pamela Worden and her vice principal gave McMurray a memo telling him not to make videotapes, according to her 2007 deposition. Worden testified that she never asked to see the contents of McMurray's camera "because the idea that it would be improper photos didn't occur to us." Through a district spokeswoman, Worden declined to comment for this story, citing pending litigation
Two years later, during class, McMurray wrote a note to a fourth-grader on a Post-it, according to police documents. "Are you comfortable with me putting my hand on your knee?" he asked. He drew two boxes for her to check: "Yes" or "No." He asked a follow-up question: "Promise not to tell any one?" The girl checked no to both questions, but he rubbed her leg anyway, according to a Los Angeles police child abuse report filed in October 2004. McMurray, who molested her on at least two occasions, later pleaded no contest to sexual abuse of a child and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Ten other girls stepped forward, complaining that they too had been touched inappropriately by McMurray, but the charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement. At least three girls have sued the district. The girl who received the Post-it notes is now 13. Traumatized and fearful of being teased, she has struggled in school and is failing most of her classes, her grandmother said. "She has a lot of anger."
James Marlo Duffin!
The year 2006 was supposed to have been a turning point for the district. As a result of two disturbing cases, officials claimed to have tightened policies on allowing accused molesters back into classrooms. They claimed to have also underscored the importance of alerting administrators and school leaders to the potential risk.
James Marlo Duffin, a fourth-grade teacher at Middleton Elementary School in Huntington Park, had been investigated in May 2001 for allegedly touching a girl's buttocks. After prosecutors declined to take the case, Duffin's principal wrote him a letter ordering him to use better judgment and avoid putting himself in situations where students or parents could question his intent. Duffin returned to the classroom. Almost two years later, while teaching at Gulf Avenue Elementary School in Wilmington, he was accused of touching a girl's buttocks and molesting two other students.
In 2006, he was convicted of a lewd act involving one of the girls and sentenced to six years behind bars. The family of one of the other accusers sued the district and settled for $90,000. It is not clear whether Duffin's new principal had been told of the prior allegation.
That same year the district adjusted its policies to require that campus administrators be informed when an employee was transferred as a result of sexual abuse allegations -- though principals still don't get the employee's file containing his or her history of such accusations. Moreover, the district stressed that if it determined on its own that sexual abuse had occurred, it would move to fire the employee regardless of what law enforcement decided. Also in 2006, the district paid a nearly $1.2-million settlement to a boy allegedly molested by a special education aide at Germain Street Elementary School in Chatsworth.
Even as he was applying to be a trainee at the district in 2001, the aide, Paul Thompson, was under investigation by police for allegedly raping a 10-year-old boy at a group home where he had worked. Prosecutors ultimately declined to pursue the case, citing a lack of evidence. A district background check failed to pick up on the complaint, according to later deposition testimony by a district official. Nor did the district notice that Thompson had forged a job-reference letter from his former employer at the group home.
Once hired at Haynes Elementary School in West Hills, Thompson met a 4-year-old with a learning disability, according to his mother's testimony in a later criminal case. Thompson began tutoring the boy after school and also baby-sat him. "I trusted [Thompson]. He was endorsed by L.A. Unified School District," the victim's mother testified. When the boy transferred to Germain in 2002, Thompson followed as his full-time aide.
Between July 2002 and March 2003, Thompson repeatedly forced the boy to perform sexual acts, according to amended criminal charges in 2005 alleging eight counts of lewd acts with a child. After a jury acquitted Thompson on five counts and could not agree on the other three, a mistrial was declared. In a second trial that ended in November 2005, the jury acquitted him of all remaining charges. Within a week, Thompson was reassigned to Blythe Street Elementary School in Reseda to be a special education aide to a female second-grader, according to his later testimony. It is unclear whether his new principal was told of the prior allegations. Shortly after his arrival on campus, however, an attorney for the district had Thompson pulled from the classroom because of concerns about his history. District leaders then reminded personnel administrators to warn principals about employees who had been accused of a sex offense before they were returned to the classroom.
Meanwhile, the family of the Germain student had sued the district in 2004, contending that the boy suffered from nightmares and sometimes refused to kiss his mother, fearing he still had Thompson's germs in his mouth. After the case was settled in 2006, the mother said she got a call from an L.A. Unified lawyer asking her to help the district fire Thompson by testifying in a disciplinary hearing. "It was hard to do after all they put us through in the civil" case, she said. "But I just wanted to make sure it would never happen again." Thompson was ultimately fired. The district cited his forged letter of recommendation and "molestation" of a student, records show. He could not be reached for comment.
A public outcry!
Based on the district's own policies and pronouncements, the actions of Steve Thomas Rooney should have been thoroughly scrutinized by the district in 2007. That year, before he was transferred to Markham Middle School as assistant principal, Rooney had been arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. He allegedly brandished a handgun at the stepfather of a student who attended Foshay Learning Center in the Exposition Park area, where Rooney had been a dean. Police told senior district officials that they had found evidence in Rooney's home of a possible sexual relationship between Rooney and the student, police later told the media. But the student, 17, did not cooperate with the LAPD investigation, police said. No charges were filed. Without conducting their own investigation, L.A. Unified officials reassigned Rooney to Markham after a few months. In 2008, Rooney was arrested for allegedly kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 13-year old female student from Markham at his home.
After that arrest, he was charged with various sexual crimes involving four girls, two former students at Foshay and two at Markham. He has pleaded guilty. The second arrest prompted a public outcry. After apologizing, then-Supt. David L. Brewer issued an order making the superintendent personally responsible for deciding whether someone accused of molestation should be returned to a classroom. He also ordered improved procedures for notifying principals of new employees' past misconduct and pledged to work more closely with law enforcement. The mother of Thompson's alleged victim is skeptical of the district's promises. When a reporter talked to her earlier this year about the Rooney case, she wept. "All I wanted was to effect change," she said, referring to her cooperation with the district. But when she learned of the latest allegations against Rooney, "that's when I realized I have failed."