Crime & Courts
Recording details Hillsborough teacher's encounters with boy
TAMPA - TAMPA The 12-year-old boy told detectives he was molested by an elementary school teacher who was supposed to be tutoring him. The teacher, Ethel Anderson, has corroborated the boy's account and admitted to the crime in a conversation secretly taped by investigators, according to court documents. The recording is the strongest evidence authorities have against Anderson so far. At a hearing Friday, a judge said there was no evidence, other than the word of the boy, that Anderson committed the crimes.Circuit Judge Walter Heinrich asked a prosecutor if there was any independent corroboration of the child's claims, such as DNA results, recorded phone conversations or witnesses. When told there wasn't, the judge said Anderson should not be held without bail. Anderson, a fifth grade teacher at Mango Elementary School, was released Friday from Hillsborough County Jail after posting $50,000 bail. She had been held without bail for two days after her arrest Feb. 29 on three counts of lewd and lascivious battery and two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. Detectives began the investigation Feb. 27, after the boy sent text messages to his mother accusing Anderson of molesting and having sex with him, according to the court documents filed Monday. The alleged incidents took place in Anderson's Riverview home at 6623 Waterton Drive, and the boy was able to describe in detail the furniture and layout of the house, the court filing said. The boy also told detectives that the language arts teacher has "distinguishing stretch marks on her stomach area and described her skin in that area in detail," the documents said. One encounter took place in the bedroom of Anderson's roommate, detectives said. The boy was not one of her current students, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and the school district said. The sexual encounters began in December and continued through February, the sheriff's office said. On Feb. 28, Anderson sent text messages to the boy's mother "regarding inappropriate contact with her son," court documents show. A meeting was arranged with Anderson the next day, but it is unclear whether the mother or the boy spoke to the teacher; the names are redacted in the documents. But the person who confronted Anderson was "voluntarily outfitted with an audio recording device (a body wire)" while detectives "monitored the live recording" through video and audio, according to a search warrant affidavit. Anderson admitted to the person wearing the wire that she performed oral sex on the boy on two occasions and allowed the boy to touch her, detectives said. Detectives seized Anderson's cellphone, believing that the device "will contain evidence corroborating the crime of lewd battery and lewd molestation," the search warrant said. Photographs of Anderson's home, including her roommate's bedroom, and of Anderson herself—including the area of her stomach the boy described—also were taken by detectives, according to the warrant. Anderson has been suspended from her job at Mango elementary, where she was chosen last year to receive the Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year award.
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