A teacher, two pastors and a former principal have been arrested in a sexual assault case involving a 15-year-old boy, according to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.Deputies said the alleged sexual abuse involving a teacher at Hilltop Baptist School was first reported in December 2010.Investigators said they learned a 15-year-old boy was in a sexual relationship with a female teacher in 2007 and 2008.After a lengthy investigation, multiple interviews and search warrants, deputies said a grand jury indicted four people:
A teacher at Hilltop Baptist School, 32-year-old Terah Allyn Rawlings, is charged with eight counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust and obscenity-promotion.
The senior pastor at Hilltop Baptist Church and former superintendent of Hilltop Baptist School, 63-year-old Franklin "Wayne" Knight, is charged with failure to report child abuse or neglect and accessory to a crime. Deputies said Knight is Rawlings' uncle.
The associate pastor of Hilltop Baptist Church and former athletic director at Hilltop Baptist School, 57-year-old Raymond "Allen" Knight, is charged with failure to report child abuse or neglect. Deputies said he is Rawlings' father.
The former principal of Hilltop Baptist School, 51-year-old Jan Ocvirk, is charged with failure to report child abuse or neglect.
Rawlings Grand Jury Indictment
According to the Grand Jury indictment, the relationship between Rawlings and the boy began in the fall of 2007 and ended when he broke it off in the summer of 2008.The two had sex for the first time in her vehicle in an apartment parking lot, according to the indictment. Sex also took place at Rawlings' home and her father's home. The boy told his friend about the encounters. He also showed his friend a photo of Rawlings where she is topless covering her nipples with her hand.
Franklin "Wayne" Knight Grand Jury Indictment
Knight was the superintendent of the Hilltop Baptist School and also the senior pastor of Hilltop Baptist Church. According to the Grand Jury report, Knight was notified three separate times about a sexual relationship between Rawlings and the boy.Knight is the uncle of Rawlings.In the 2008-09 school year, Knight is reported to have first learned about allegations from the principal, Ocvirk. According to the report, Ocvirk learned about the allegations from a teacher at the school. That teacher told Ocvirk that Rawlings' husband told her that he found a Georgia Tech hat under his bed. The teacher told Rawlings' husband that she knew the boy was a Georgia Tech fan and had heard from other students that the boy and Rawlings were having an inappropriate relationship.She told the principal that she had received a text message from Rawlings that said she had made a "big mistake" and that students were going to look at her differently, according to the report. The teacher wanted Ocvirk to investigate, but Ocvirk did not report the allegations to police.The second report to Knight was in the summer of 2010. Two parishioners are reported to have heard about the sexual relationship. Knight is reported to have investigated on his own but did not report to police or human services. Knight spoke to the boy who denied a sexual relationship. At this time, the boy was older than 18.The third report to Knight was on Dec. 15, 2010. Two teachers reported that two students told them about the sexual relationship between the boy and Rawlings. The students said the boy had told them about the relationship.One of the students reported having seen an email to the boy from Rawlings that said she missed him and wanted to run away with him. Another student reported seeing the two go into a bedroom and heard noises that sounded like people having sex. This student also reported seeing the two making out in a van on a school trip to Greeley in 2008. Rawlings was a chaperone on that trip. This student also reported seeing text messages between the two saying, "I love you." The allegations were not reported to law enforcement or human services, according to the indictment.The indictment said Knight discouraged witnesses from coming forward. It states he displayed a consistent pattern to manipulate and control the situation. He reportedly told church members who questioned him about the allegations, "If you persist with this, your relationship with the church will be damaged."He told the church members, it was nothing but innuendo and someone's axe to grind, according to the report.
Teachers Fired After Reporting Abuse
After one of the two teachers from the third report alerted law enforcement, the two teachers were fired.The report said Knight held a student/faculty assembly on Jan. 8, 2011, stating the police were investigation allegations of inappropriate behavior between Rawlings and the boy, but that the allegations were absolutely false.A letter went home to the parents stating:
"An accusation of misconduct between a staff member and a former student surfaced. We thoroughly investigated this accusation and found no basis for the claim. There is absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing. Both parties involved, as well as the student's parents agree this is absurd and deny that anything inappropriate ever took place."
The Grand Jury found that Knight willfully, deliberately and knowingly attempted to manipulate and control the situation.
Raymond Knight Grand Jury Indictment
Raymond Knight was the athletic director of the school and associate pastor at the church. Raymond is Rawlings' father.The two students who reported the sexual relationship to two teachers, also reported what they heard to the athletic director. He did not alert police or human services, according to the report.
Jan Ocvirk Grand Jury Indictment
Ocvirk was the principal of the school. She received a report from a teacher that Rawlings was having a sexual relationship with a student.According to the report, Ocvirk told the superintendent, who told her to investigate. She met with Rawlings, her husband and the teacher who reported the relationship. All three denied the allegations, according to the report. Ocvirk did not report the allegations to police or human services.Ocvirk also received a second report of an inappropriate relationship on Dec. 15, 2010. Two teachers related to Ocvirk what they had heard from two students. This was the same information that the Knights had been told.According to the Grand Jury report, Ocvirk instructed the teachers not to go to law enforcement. She told them it should be kept within a small group meeting. Ocvirk did not report the allegations to police or human services, according to the report.
Why Grand Jury Needed?
The Sheriff's Office told 7NEWS a grand jury investigated the case because the victim and at least one of those indicted were not cooperative with deputies.7NEWS asked that question to El Paso County district attorney Dan May."Why was the Sheriff's Office investigation not enough for you to press charges?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger."It may be that some of the information that they were or were not able to gather, and the use of the Grand Jury, they could gather information that was not available to the detectives," said May.
Colorado's Mandatory Reporting Law
In Colorado, teachers and administrators are among the professions bound by the mandatory reporting law. If they suspect abuse or inappropriate activities against children, they are required to alert police or human services."If you're going to take a position where you are in a position of trust to children, like a school official, like a principal, like a superintendent, like an athletic director; whether it's family or not, that's a requirement of law. We expect people in those positions of trust to protect our kids," said May.7NEWS asked May about the teachers who were fired after reporting the allegations. He wouldn't talk about the specific case, but said mandatory reporters have protection."If you have a reasonable suspicion and you report that to law enforcement, we give you immunity. Nobody can sue you for having reported and it turned out it was wrong, as long as you had a reasonable basis to do that," said May. "People cannot sue you for having called the police and said, 'I'm concerned about this.' You cannot be criminally charged for doing that. You can't have retaliation from an employer."