MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) - A Muskegon Public Schools employee is behind bars Wednesday, accused of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Thomas Edward Lopez was arrested Tuesday after an investigation by the Michigan State Police.
First-degree criminal sexual conduct is the most serious of the CSC charges. Under Michigan law, it is classified as some sort of sexual penetration, but attorney Curt Benson said the law has a wide definition of 'penetration.'
Superintendent of Muskegon Public Schools Jon Felske said the MSP called him with the news late Tuesday afternoon.
"They had told me they were in the process of arresting Mr. Lopez and they were going to charge him with first degree CSC, and at that point in time they just wanted to inform me of that."
The current allegations are a result of an incident that allegedly happened about five years ago with a female student who was middle school aged at the time. Felske said the CSC allegations do not involve current students.
Lopez was a student specialist at Steele Middle School in the Muskegon Public School system, which Felske said is essentially like a dean of students.
Felske told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday that Lopez has worked for the district for a period of 10 years, and was a varsity baseball coach up until this year.
The district sent a letter home to parents about the charges Wednesday. It informed parents what happened and that Lopez is currently on unpaid leave.
24 Hour News 8 spoke to Angela Cortez, the parent of a child at the school. Cortez is also an alumna of the school herself.
"It breaks my heart knowing that it happened here in our schools -- here in a school I've attended. It just makes me sad to think that," she said.
Cortez was even more upset when she heard this was the second time Lopez has been looked into for inappropriate contact with a female student.
"If you're a suspect for that in the first place, you shouldn't be around children at all -- whether you were alleged -- look into it because these are our kids," said Cortez.
In 2007, Lopez was investigated by Muskegon police and the school district after allegations surfaced that he had inappropriate contact with a different middle school female student.
No charges were ever filed in that case.
This time, prosecutors say, they have more evidence against Lopez than in the first case. And, they say, they may revisit the first investigation.
"There was an investigation into some of these types of allegations back around that time, and so this is why there was information that was being shared between Muskegon City police department and the state police," said Felske. "But obviously, the state police are taking the lead on that."
Felske said the district is doing whatever it can to cooperate with the current investigation.
"For the safety of all students, we want to make sure that that anybody with any student in our building would be able to bring forward any information," Felske said.
According to the Muskegon County Jail's website, Lopez has not yet been officially charged. He remains lodged in the Muskegon County Jail.
Anyone with more information is asked to contact the MSP Rockford Post at 616.866.4411.
On Saturday, the Michigan State Spartans will be taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes for the Big Ten College Football title. On Friday, fans began gathering in Indianapolis for the big game.
Two Kalamazoo men are in jail after Kalamazoo officers found them with money stolen from Sunny Mart Friday afternoon.
Two people were taken to the hospital after one vehicle crossed the center line, causing a head-on crash in Ada Township Friday night.