Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Where Did Admitted Pedophile Teach?
By Carolyn Carlson
Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
Albuquerque Public Schools officials are refusing to identify other schools where a former substitute teacher accused of videotaping up the skirt of an Atrisco Elementary School girl was assigned.
Spokeswoman Monica Armenta confirmed Robert H. Ashley, 63, had worked as an APS substitute since 2005, but refused to give further details, including where he taught. She said that information is part of his personnel file.
Ashley is being sought by law enforcement in connection with the Atrisco incident. According to arrest records, he admitted to officers who questioned him that he was a pedophile.
"This is a sick and twisted man who needs to be taken off the streets," Sheriff Darren White said Tuesday.
Chuck Peifer, a longtime attorney for the New Mexico Foundation of Open Government, said it was "ridiculous" for APS to claim personnel confidentiality covers where a public employee works.
"By no stretch of the imagination can that be stretched to cover school employees and their workplace," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday night.
Peifer said the public has a right to know at what schools Ashley was employed, and the parents of the kids in his classroom have a right to know whether this person taught their kids.
"One has to wonder why APS wants to hide this kind of information when you can enter any school as a visitor ... and find out what teachers work there.
"This is a matter of intense public interest for any parent of an APS child," he said.
White said Ashley is a retired schoolteacher from California and also may have worked as a substitute in Nevada and Colorado.
Ashley is accused of setting up a video camera trained on the chair where a second- or third-grade girl sat at her desk Sept. 5. The camera was inside a nylon bag that was inside a backpack sitting on the floor by the child's desk. The backpack had been discovered abandoned in the teachers' lounge.
Principal Linda Corona, an educational assistant and a teacher watched the videotape to see whom the backpack belonged to. They shut the tape off when they saw Ashley and the student on it and called APS police.
An APS dispatcher who has since been suspended with pay told Corona she had violated the teacher's rights and told her to give back the tape, camera and fanny pack.
However, a school counselor called the Sheriff's Department the next day after learning of the incident.
The criminal complaint and affidavit for the arrest warrant says Ashley also admitted to detectives that he videotaped children on a playground outside the window of his apartment in the 5000 block of Gibson SE.
Neighbors told detectives Ashley had moved out of his apartment in the middle of the night Saturday, White said.
A warrant was issued for Ashley's arrest Monday. He is wanted on a felony charge of child voyeurism, according to a criminal complaint and affidavit for the arrest warrant.
Ashley admitted to investigators he is a pedophile and is sexually attracted to 8- and 9-year-old girls, especially their feet. He also said he would tickle female students' feet when they were on the monkey bars and that would sexually stimulate him.
This incident is not the first time school personnel became alarmed by Ashley's behavior.
In a handwritten statement attached to the police report, counselor Reyna Luna said that in March or April "the hair on the back of my head stood up" when Ashley began to tremble all over when she mentioned a student's name while questioning him about being alone in a classroom with the student.
The statement says Ashley has Parkinson's disease but it usually is under control. Luna wrote that she, the school nurse and others continued to check on Ashley.
Luna called the Sheriff's Department when learning of the Sept. 5 incident the next day, the police report says.
White said a search warrant was executed Friday of Ashley's apartment and vehicle and detectives seized the videotape and at least a dozen other videotapes, some containing pornographic material.
White said Ashley was not immediately arrested because detectives needed to review the tapes before seeking an arrest warrant. On Monday, detectives went back to his apartment with the arrest warrant but he was gone.
They are reviewing the tapes to see if there is more evidence of child voyeurism.
Ashley drives a white 2006 Toyota Camry, New Mexico license plate 998-NWS.
White said the U.S. Marshals are assisting in the search for Ashley, who has connections in California, Colorado and Nevada.
"But he could have gone anywhere," White said.