Wednesday, March 13 2013 12:59 PM EDT2013-03-13 16:59:52 GMT
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced Wednesday that a Grain Valley man has been charged with child molestation and sodomy of young boys at a school.More >
GRAIN VALLEY, MO (KCTV) -
A Grain Valley teacher allegedly molested four students during classes and authorities fear more victims have yet to come forward.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced Wednesday that a Grain Valley School District teacher has been charged with child molestation and sodomy of young boys at a school.
A release from Baker's office said Matthew J. Nelson, 33, of Grain Valley faces charges of first-degree child molestation and three felony counts of first-degree statutory sodomy.
Nelson, a second-grade teacher at Prairie Branch Elementary School, turned himself into Grain Valley police while accompanied by his attorney Wednesday morning. He visibly choked up and became emotional as he was led outside the Grain Valley Police Department before his arraignment.
He has been a Grain Valley school teacher for 10 years.
He is now jailed on a $250,000 cash only bond.
Parents of four different children notified the Grain Valley Police Department that their sons, ages 7 to 9, had reported inappropriate touching by Nelson in his classroom, according to court documents. The boys reported Nelson touched their genitalia through clothing or directly to skin during classroom hours, including during movie times and reading periods. A forensic interview of the first victim to report verified that the teacher had rubbed the boy in a private area that was inappropriate.
Grain Valley Police Chief Aaron Ambrose said police are very concerned there could be more victims who haven't come forward yet. He is urging parents to talk to their children.
"The main message is that we think there could possibly be potential other victims out there and, if there are, we encourage them to come forward," said Ambrose.
"That's a big concern with us and we're not sure where this could lead to and that's exactly why we want to get that message out there that we encourage people to come forward if they know anything, whether it's the parents or the kids themselves," said the police chief when KCTV5's Sandra Olivas asked him how concerning is it that Nelson had contact not just with school children, but through coaching.
Ambrose said that, so far, they've spoke with four to five victims, both girls and boys.
The Grain Valley police report stated a child reported to their parent that they were being touched inappropriately by one of their teachers.
"The reporting party stated when she and the victim arrived back at their residence later in the evening, the victim stated the teacher had touched their genitals through the clothing," the report stated.
Grain Valley officials placed Nelson on administrative lave after receiving the first report Jan. 9. The police department and state social workers were notified the same day, the district said.
When the issues surrounding Nelson broke last week, the district said putting him on administrative leave wasn't a sign of guilt or blame but just following the process established by state law.
"We recognize that in the absence of more information some will try to 'fill in the blanks.' We implore you to avoid doing so to protect the privacy of all parties involved," said a portion of the letter sent out from Grain Valley administrators to all staff members Tuesday.
In a letter to parents, district officials said they are fully cooperating with the authorities, but to realize that the criminal process will take some time.
"Please be as patient as possible with the Grain Valley School District, its staff and teachers, during this difficult time," the letter states. "That complicated process can often be beyond our control."
The prosecutor thanked the Grain Valley Police Department for acting quickly on reports of parents, who went to police just this month. The police department also followed up appropriately after one parent came forward; detectives quickly interviewed other parents with children in the school, Baker said.
Those who know Nelson are unsettled by the allegations.
"He was honestly my favorite teacher," said Nick Barker, a junior. "I like him a lot. It's kind of weird that all of this happened."
Kris Wilt lives next door to Nelson and his family. Wilt was speechless about Nelson's arrest.
He said neighborhood children including her younger sister have been inside Nelson's home and he is concerned.
"It's kind of scary," he said.
Grain Valley has a substitute teacher in Nelson's classroom now and asked parents to avoid bombarding the substitute with questions.
"We want to assist you, address your concerns, establish an open communication path, and continue to educate our children in a safe environment," the letter from Superintendent Roy Moss states. "We are doing our very best to reach those objectives."
KCTV5 previously reported that Nelson was the Missouri Teacher of the year for 2007 however, the honor he received was a teacher of the year award from The Walmart Foundation.
To read previous coverage on this story, click here.
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