A Las Vegas kindergarten teacher “knew what he was doing was wrong” when he spirited a 16-year-old girl away from her home and concealed her for nearly nine weeks, a judge said Wednesday.
Justice of the Peace William Kephart made the comment at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing for William Sprowson Jr., 45.
After hearing testimony from several witnesses, the judge ruled that Sprowson must stand trial on kidnapping and other felony charges related to his relationship with the teenage girl. The defendant was employed at Wengert Elementary School when the crimes occurred.
An arraignment hearing was set for Jan. 15 in District Court.
The teenager tearfully declared her love for Sprowson during two hours of testimony last week, when she said she willingly went to live with Sprowson. She also said she willingly sent him photographs of herself in various stages of undress at his request.
In addition to a charge of first-degree kidnapping, Sprowson faces one count of child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial mental harm, and four counts of unlawful use of a minor in the production of pornography.
The teenager met Sprowson after she responded to a Craigslist.com advertisement he had placed.
Evidence indicated he took her away from her home around midnight on Aug. 28.
“I begged him to come pick me up,” the girl testified.
The Review-Journal typically does not publish the names of sexual assault victims or minors involved in sex crimes.
Kephart said Sprowson misrepresented himself when he used the Internet to meet the teenager.
“I got this impression that Mr. Sprowson, in his mind, hit the jackpot,” the judge said.
Kephart said Sprowson had no right to entice the girl away from her mother and keep her hidden in his home. The judge also noted that the teacher took no steps to return the girl to school, although she excelled academically.
“There’s no age problem in him having sex with her,” Kephart said.
Under Nevada law, 16 is the age of consent.
“Consent is not a defense when a minor is the victim of a kidnapping,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqueline Bluth argued at Wednesday’s hearing.
After the girl was discovered on Nov. 1 and returned home, she tried to jump from the second floor of her mother’s home to escape.
The girl has been in and out of mental health institutions since, and now is living at a long-term treatment facility outside Las Vegas.
Defense attorney John Momot described the teenager as “the proponent of the activities.” He said she even conducted legal research.
“She didn’t want to break any laws,” Momot told the judge. “She felt she had the right to be there and she had the right to have sex with the defendant.”
After the hearing, Momot said he disagreed with the judge’s ruling.
“My heart goes out to this young lady because she just doesn’t want to be with her mom,” the attorney said.
During the preliminary hearing, Kephart also heard about two other relationships the girl had with older men two years earlier.
One of the men, David Schlomann, 41, is awaiting a Jan. 30 sentencing hearing. He pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault and luring children with use of technology with intent to engage in sexual conduct.
“That case appears to be a lot more eregious,” Momot said.
Sprowson has faced accusations involving sexual abuse of minors in the past. He resigned under pressure from the Los Angeles Unified School District in the wake of allegations of sexual abuse involving fourth- and fifth-grade students. He was investigated but never faced criminal charges.
The defendant is being held at the Clark County Detention Center in lieu of $650,000 bail.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-384-8710. Follow @CarriGeer on Twitter.