A 61-year old Los Angeles elementary school teacher, Mark Berndt, has been arrested after police say he molested at least 23 of his male and female seven to ten-year old students, including tying them up, blindfolding them, sexually assaulting them, placing giant Madagascar cockroaches on them, feeding them semen, and photographing them. Photographs of the students were found in his home, along with S&M bondage photographs of adults. Berndt may have sold some of the photographs online as well.
Brendt, a teacher for 30 years at L.A.’s Miramonte Elementary School, was fired in March after a year-long investigation, but not arrested until Monday.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Dan Scott “said the alleged acts were uncovered when Berndt gave 35-mm film to the photo processor in October 2010, and the photo store in turn alerted Redondo Beach police, who immediately initiated an investigation,” the L.A. Times reports:
“Fortunately for everyone, this individual was very observant and realized what was was going on,” Scott said. “I give them a lot of credit for going to the Redondo Beach police.”
Film processors are mandated to report suspected child abuse under California law.
Scott said Redondo Beach police turned over the investigation to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s sexual crimes unit when they discovered the teacher’s school location in December 2010.
Scott said a spoon recovered from a trash bin in Berndt’s classroom is a key piece of evidence. He said Det. Marvin Jaramillo early in the investigation visited Berndt’s classroom, saw the spoon in the trash and retrieved it.
“The recovered item tested positive for semen,” Scott said.
Through further investigation, the suspect’s DNA was obtained and tested, and officials said it matched that of the DNA found on the spoon.
Scott said Berndt, a 30-year teacher, portrayed the bondage and spoon as part of a game that he played regularly in his classroom.
“This occurred in his regular classroom with his students,” Scott said. “It wasn’t done in secrecy. The only secret was what the game was really about.”
“Based on what we found, it was done for sexual gratification,” he continued. “The semen and the bondage was a sexual experience for him, and that is why it is a lewd act.”
Berndt’s arrest culminated a yearlong investigation by the L.A. County sheriff’s special victims unit. The 23 alleged victims are both boys and girls and ranged in age from 7 to 10.
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