Sunday, October 24, 2010

Catholic teacher arrested

70-year-old former teacher arrested for sexual assault (video)
Published: Tuesday, September 21, 2010

0diggsdigg ShareThis34By MICHAEL P. RELLAHAN, Staff Writer

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WEST CHESTER – A police investigation has led to the arrest of a 70-year-old retired schoolteacher and youth baseball coach on charges that he allegedly sexually assaulted four young boys over the course of several years, videotaping some of the encounters.

William Lee Rhoads of Charlestown was taken into custody Sunday at his home after returning from an overseas vacation with his wife, and charged with multiple counts of rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, possession of child pornography, and related crimes.

He is being held in Chester County Prison in lieu of $5 million bail.

Chester County Detective Jeff Gordon, assigned to the county District Attorney’s Child Abuse Unit, said in a criminal complaint that he began the investigation into Rhoads after being informed of a report by the county Department of Children, Youth and Families on Sept. 9 that Rhoads had sexually assaulted a 4-year-old boy.

Gordon subsequently interviewed an 11-year-old boy who said that Rhoads had assaulted him at his home over a period of time from 2007 to this summer. Two other alleged victims were also interviewed this month, including a 15 year-old-youth and a 10-year-old boy. Both said they had been sexually assaulted by Rhoads over a period of years.

The 11-year-old and the 15-year-old also told police that Rhoads had videotaped the assaults using a camera that he propped up on books in a room in his home, where the assaults took place. The 11-year-old said that Rhoads told him that he enjoyed watching the videos, according to the arrest affidavit.

“This is a horrific crime, and proves once again that predators come in all ages,” said First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Carmody in discussing the arrest at an afternoon news conference at the district attorney’s office. “These kind of crimes make you wish you could charge someone with the theft of a childhood.”

Carmody said the identities of the children would not be made public “due to the delicate nature” of the accusations.

A search of Rhoads’ home on Thursday resulted in the seizure of numerous items, including 12 videotapes. The complaint stated that Rhoads had at least 60 video recordings of his sexual acts with the victims.

Rhoads, a retired mechanical engineer, taught at Villa Maria Academy in Malvern for 14 years, from 1992 to 2006. He was also a coach for the Kimberton Youth Athletic League.

Sister Marita Carmel of Villa Maria, the all-girl Catholic college preparatory school, issued a statement Monday in which she acknowledged getting inquires from the media about Rhoads’ tenure at the school, where he taught physics.

“We have been informed by the Chester County authorities that the victims of the alleged crimes were not female,” Carmel said in her statement.

“Since we have already been contacted by the media, we want to allay any concern this news may cause the Villa Maria community,” she said. “We were not aware that Mr. Rhoads was under investigation and we are devastated by the news. Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our students.”

She said that during his years at the school, Rhoads had a current Pennsylvania police criminal check and that it was “in order.” Authorities confirmed he had no prior criminal record.

Carmody said at the news conference that Rhoads’ association with the Kimberton youth league ended Monday. Gordon said the suspect had been a coach and former president of the organization for 30 years. No one from the league could be reached for comment Monday.

Both men stressed investigators are seeking information about possible other assaults that Rhoads may have committed.

“I don’t want to start a panic,” said Carmody, “but the problems with child abusers is that they go where the children are.” At least one of the alleged victims had been a member of the youth league, he said.

Gordon said he took Rhoads into custody as the former teacher stepped from an airport limo outside his home, in the neighborhood of Charlestown, west of the Valley Forge Christian Academy. Rhoads and his wife of 45 years, Ann Rhoads, had just returned from a vacation to Italy, he said.

The detective said Rhoads traveled abroad extensively, and had arrangements in place to leave the country on two trips in 2011, including a vacation to Southeast Asia, one of the reasons why his bail was set as high as it was.

Gordon and Carmody said there was no evidence at this time that Rhoads sold or distributed the videotapes of the assaults on the children, or any photos taken from them.

According to the affidavit, Gordon interviewed the 11 year old in the Chester County Child Advocacy Center in the county’s Justice Center on Tuesday, Sept. 14. He said the boy told him that he had been assaulted as recently as this past summer in a bathroom at Rhoads’ house, even when he told Rhoads that he did not want to.

He said Rhoads told him about having such contact with the two other boys, ages 15 and 10.

Gordon interviewed the 15 year old the same day. The youth said Rhoads’ assaults had started in 2003 and lasted until 2005 at Rhoads’ home. He said there had been at least 10 encounters but that they had stopped five years ago when the youth resisted. However, he said Rhoads had continued “to try to get him to engage in the sexual activity again,” according to the criminal complaint.

The search of Rhoads’ home on Thursday turned up evidence that led investigators to the 10-year-old, and that the alleged assaults on him had lasted approximately four years.

The affidavit said the mother of the 4-year-old was able to identify Rhoads.

A preliminary hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 23 at District Magisterial Judge Theodore Michael’s court in Phoenixville.

Anyone with more information on Rhoads is asked to call the Chester County Detectives at 610 344 6866.

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