No charges sought against Garces High teacher

No charges sought against Garces High teacher »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Police will not ask for charges to be filed at this time against a Garces Memorial High School teacher accused of a sexual assault from nearly 40 years ago.

An investigation was launched after a former student came forward reporting she'd been assaulted at an off-campus location, but officers won't send a case to the Kern County District Attorney's office.

Investigators are still not naming the teacher and said they still want to hear from any other possible victims. But, the case from 1976 happened too long ago to ask for charges.

"We're not saying there is no crime," Detective Uriel Pacheco told Eyewitness News on Wednesday. "However, because of the statute of limitations, we're not going to be able to send this case to the district attorney's office for a complaint."

Police announced the investigation Tuesday. The department said the victim was 16 years old when the alleged incident happened in the 1976-77 school year.

The normal statute of limitations on most felony sex offenses is 10 years, according to Deputy District Attorney Andrea Kohler. But, cases beyond that limit can be filed if there are aggravating circumstances. Kohler said that would include situations with a specific crime and substantial sexual contact, corroborating evidence and a victim under the age of 18.

Pacheco said investigators did not find aggravating circumstances in this case at this time.

The alleged incident was 36 years ago, and experts in sexual abuse say is can be many years before a victim comes forward to report.

"There is no correct time to come forward," Alliance Against Family Violence director Louis Gill said. He can't comment on the current specific investigation but said that's the case in general. He said there are many things that can old a victim back.

"There's a great deal of fear," Gill said. "Will I be believed? Was it really a crime? Was there a problem? There's a lot of self-doubt and minimizing."

He said each case is unique.

Gill also said his organization has a special group for victims who were assaulted as teens and children. And, while it may take some victims years to talk about an assault, Gill said that wait does take a toll.

"Untreated trauma turns into post-traumatic stress," he said.

On Tuesday, the Office of Catholic Education in the Fresno Diocese announced the teacher was on administrative leave and off campus. That office said they had started an internal investigation and referred the matter to Bakersfield police.

Pacheco said the department was notified about the allegations on Sept. 17. He could not say who officers have interviewed at this time, but he said the investigation is ongoing.

"We're continuing to follow up on leads, and we're continuing to ask the public if there are victims, to please contact the Bakersfield Police Department," Pacheco said.

The number to call the BPD is (661) 327-7111.

From the Alliance Against Family Violence, Gill said most cases of sexual assault do not even get reported. But, if victims have waited in fear for many years, he wants them to know that understanding has come a long way.

"It takes courage to come forward if you're seeking assistance because of something in your past that you want to deal with now," Gill said. "There is help available. That's the message I want people to get."

The Alliance hotline is 327-1091.