BURLINGTON, Vt. -
There are new sexual assault allegations against a former Highgate paraeducator. Now, we're learning the abuse happened at the suspect's home and school. Twelve pages of court paperwork outline what the little boy says Josie Spears did to him when she would take him into the staff room at work and lock him in the bathroom of her own home.
Spears is behind bars at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. The one-time Highgate Elementary School paraeducator was locked up as Vermont State Police shared new details with WCAX News about her behavior with a child under the age of 13. The 33-year-old Highgate woman was already facing lewd and lascivious conduct charges for reportedly sharing naked photos with the victim.
"It's an attempt, it looks like, to have a peer-to-peer relationship and, again, that's disturbing," Franklin County Prosecutor Jim Hughes said back in February.
Now, investigators say new evidence from interviews with the victim and the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) lab show that Spears "had multiple physical sexual encounters with the juvenile victim."
The child told investigators the defendant forcibly performed oral sex on him about 20 times at her home and also made him touch her breasts and genitals. The victim says the abuse also happened at school. Court paperwork shows Spears would take the child into the staff room where he says she knew there were no cameras. She kissed him and touched his genitals over his clothes. The boy says he was afraid of Spears and what she might do next and that she didn't care if he liked what was happening to him and that he had to keep it a secret.
Spears is now expected to face multiple sexual assault charges, new allegations that came as a surprise to her attorney Jessica Burke who told us by phone that her client "vigorously maintains her innocence."
The new developments came just two days after Spears found herself back in front of a judge for violating her conditions of release by going within 300 feet of the victim's home.
Spears is being held without bail. With the new charges, she could face up to life in prison if convicted.
The victim also tells investigators there may have been a second student victim in this case.
An Etowah County woman is accused of producing child pornography in her home.
Sarah Ann Bozarth, 30, Altoona, was charged with one count of production of child pornography, according to the Etowah County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators say Bozarth was producing child pornography with minors in her home on Shady Grove Road in Altoona.
During the execution of a search warrant, investigators seized two computers, two cellular phones and a laptop.
Bozarth is being held in the Etowah County Detention Center on $500,000 cash bond.
As a condition of bond, she is prohibited from using the internet, having any contact with the victim and having unsupervised contact with any child under the age of 18. Bozarth will be supervised by Etowah County Community Corrections.
Etowah County Department of Human Resources is involved with the case.
A family is seeking $4.5 million in damages from Roane County Schools and a contractor after a female janitor raped a then-16-year-old male student at Midway High School during school hours.
Jessica E. Galyon, 29, of Philadelphia, Tenn., was arrested Feb. 23 on charges of sexual battery by an authority figure, aggravated statutory rape and statutory rape by an authority figure, according to the Roane County Sheriff's Office. She was released on $15,000 bond.
The victim's parents are suing Roane County Schools and Compass One Services of Tennessee, the contractor that employed Galyon, for negligence in allowing the rape to occur, according to a copy of the lawsuit filed Monday.
Galyon first began talking to the teen in August before attempting to escalate the relationship by insisting he give her his phone number and become her friend on Facebook.
Galyon began sending "flirtatious and sexual messages" to the boy, who told Galyon her advances were "unsolicited, unwanted and unwelcome," the lawsuit reads.
On Sept. 16, Galyon invited the boy to visit her in a hotel room so they could have sex. The boy rejected the offer and said he didn't want "any further contact" with Galyon, according to the lawsuit.
When the boy ultimately confronted Galyon about her unwanted sexual advances, she took him into a room and raped him at the school during school hours.
"This was the first ever sexual encounter of any kind that (the boy) had ever had in his life," the lawsuit reads.
Galyon told the teen not to tell anyone as it would cause her to lose her job, her husband and her children.
Galyon's harassment of the boy was publicly known, according to the lawsuit. Students and faculty members teased and bullied the boy, calling Galyon his "girlfriend."
One faculty member even told the boy he was "jealous" of him "because he wanted to have sex with Galyon," according to the lawsuit.
The rape and subsequent harassment prompted the boy to drop out of Midway High, enroll in home school and begin attending weekly counseling sessions.
A month after the rape, a school faculty member told the school's administration about what had happened, which led to Galyon's arrest.
The lawsuit accuses Roane County Schools and Compass One of acting "intentionally, willfully, wantonly and/or with gross negligence in failing to recognize and/or stop the sexual misconduct of Galyon."
The boy's parents are seeking $3.5 million in damages from Roane County Schools and Compass One, as well as an additional $1 million in punitive damages. The family is being represented by Tarpy, Cox, Fleishman & Leveille PLLC, a Knoxville-based firm.
Roane County Schools and Compass One Services could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
In sentencing her to 40 years to life in prison, 13th Judicial District Judge Kevin L. Hoyer on Tuesday told Michelle Kinion, 47, of Morgan County, he believed "a long prison sentence is warranted" for her sexual assaults of her children.
The judge called the testimony he heard during Kinion's trial about what she had done to her children "horrific."
That trial resulted in a guilty verdict Feb. 7 from a Morgan County jury on nine total charges, including two counts of felony sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust with two sentences enhancers of pattern of abuse.
Those enhanced felony charges were what led to the bulk of the sentence Hoyer handed down to Kinion Tuesday: two terms of 20 years to life to run consecutively.
Additionally, Kinion received two sentences of six years to life on two counts of unlawful sexual conduct, two sentences of 18 months on two counts of misdemeanor child abuse and six months on one count of reckless endangerment. Hoyer said all of those shorter sentences were to run concurrently with the longer ones.
"I think justice was served," Assistant District Attorney Hollie Wilkinson said after the sentencing hearing. "It just gives the opportunity to the victims to start the healing process."
The Morgan County Department of Human Services terminated Michelle Kinion's parental rights in 2009. Fort Morgan Police Department and the 13th Judicial District Attorney's Office conducted an investigation into the case, which resulted in her arrest in February 2015. She was tried and convicted in February 2016.
Hoyer pronounced his sentence Tuesday afternoon in Morgan County District Court after hearing one of the two victims, a female juvenile, speak directly to the court and hearing a letter from the second victim, a male juvenile, read by the prosecutor, Wilkinson.
"For almost 10 years, I've waited for the day I could have closure and peace of mind," the female victim told the court. "This day means so much because it means I can finally have closure and move on."
She also said that she suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and has trouble forming relationships.
"No one should go through this, but it happened," the female victim said. "Even through the struggles, I still see the glass as half full."
She told the judge that she wanted to see Kinion receive a life sentence.
"It would mean so much to me, knowing she could never hurt me or anyone else again," the female victim said.
"I despise you for all the turmoil and hell you put me through," the male victim's letter stated. "Why didn't you take the plea?"
His letter also declared that Kinion "will never be (his) mother," and that he has a good mother and father in his foster parents.
The male victim's therapist, Deborah Paulsen, also spoke to the court on her client's behalf before the judge pronounced the sentence.
"The confusion and pain experienced by a child that is sexually abused by his parents cannot be imagined," Paulsen said, adding that the male victim will have to deal with that for the rest of his life.
"I believe Michelle Kinion needs to be held responsible for (the abuse of both children," the therapist told the judge. "Anything less than a maximum sentence would be a miscarriage of justice."
Also speaking to Hoyer before he sentenced Kinion were Pamela Rix, Melissa Wagner and Bill Harding.
Each offered their condemnation of Kinion and what she did to her children, who were ages 2 to 9 at the time.
The sexual abuse "changed who her biological children were and who they intended to be," Rix told the judge. She added that even though Kinion was only convicted of abusing two of her six children, "common sense knows she did this to all the children she birthed. Because of the grace of God, these children survived that rape and torture they experienced every day of their lives."
Rix asked the judge to deliver a sentence that would ensure Kinion will "never be allowed to be around another child."
Wagner said Kinion was "the worst kind of disgusting scum" and had stolen "the innocence and joy" from her children. She asked Hoyer to give Kinion the maximum sentence, which would have been 48 years to life.
Harding, who took in the male victim as a foster child and has since adopted him, told the judge, "Sometimes I sit down and cry at night because of the things he went through."
Fort Morgan Police Detective Todd Zwetzig was among those present Tuesday at the sentencing, but he did not speak.
The judge also heard from the prosecutor and defense attorney and before pronouncing his sentence.
Wilkinson pointed out that there were many failures in the system before Kinion wound up getting charged and tried.
"Many of us in this courtroom failed these children at different points," the assistant district attorney said. "But the jury did not."
She asked Hoyer to consider how Kinion had failed her children, bent on satisfying her "drug habit and sexual appetite" instead of caring for or sacrificing for her children.
Wilkinson pointed to testimony during the trial that indicated Kinion forced her children to watch pornography to learn how to satisfy her sexually, along with sexual assaults while giving her children baths.
"She may have given birth to them, but she is not a mother," Wilkinson said.
And it did not stop there, she said.
"Just when things didn't seem like they could get any worse for these children, it did," Wilkinson said, with Kinion convincing the children's biological father to participate in the sexual abuse.
Darrin Kinion, the father, testified about his role in the abuse during Michelle Kinion's trial, according to Wilkinson. He accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to prison for a charge of attempted sex assault on a child and child abuse.
Wilkinson asked Hoyer to give Michelle Kinion "separate and distinct sentences" for her convictions on assaulting two children and for those sentences to run consecutively, not at the same time.
Representing Michelle Kinion, Richard Rowe of the Colorado State Public Defender's Office asked the judge to consider his client also a victim who was previously sexually assaulted.
He acknowledged that she was going to prison, but he requested a sentence on the shorter side of the mandatory eight to 24 years for the worst among the charges on which his client was convicted. That way, Michelle Kinion would be able to seek parole one day and would have a reason to take advantage of the programs offered through the department of corrections.
Rowe also pointed out that Michelle Kinion's mother was in the courtroom to support her daughter.
But no offer was made of letting her speak to the court.
The judge asked Michelle Kinion if she wanted to speak on her own behalf, but she declined to make a statement.
With pre-sentencing statements concluded, Hoyer got down to business.
"There's not really much more I can say that hasn't been said," the judge said, adding that the testimony during the trial had made it clear the children had endured years of sexual abuse at their mother's hands.
Hoyer then proceeded to read his sentences on the various counts, including the two consecutive 20-years-to-life ones on the two counts of felony sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust with a pattern of abuse.
The judge did give Kinion credit for 801 days served, and he imposed a total of $3,514 in fines and fees for court costs.