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Mt. Nebo teacher arrested

Police investigating educator on possible unlawful sexual conduct

Published: Wednesday, April 2 2008 12:59 a.m. MDT

Jennifer Gonzales

PROVO — A junior high school teacher has been arrested for investigation of unlawful sexual conduct with her 16-year-old proctor son.

Jennifer Candida Gonzales, 32, who teaches at Mt. Nebo Junior High School in Payson, was arrested Monday after her husband, Richard Gonzales, told police he came home from work to find her and their 16-year-old proctor son in the basement with candles and oils, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in 4th District Court.

A proctor parent takes temporary care of a state-custody teen who may face emotional, behavioral or attitudinal issues.

According to the affidavit, the teenager told police he had massaged Gonzales' breasts and buttocks.

"At this point, the state is aware of it," said Payson Police Lt. Bill Wright. "They're taking steps to put him in state custody."

"Our primary concern is that he's safe and that he has every resource that he needs to deal with the situation," said Liz Sollis, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, which oversees Juvenile Justice Services — the agency that has custody of the teen.

Jennifer Gonzales began working for Nebo School District in 2005 and has been in the school's Cornerstone Unit, an alternative education route for sixth- and seventh-grade students, said Nebo district spokeswoman Lana Hiskey. "She's definitely on a leave of absence right now until more things are investigated here at a district level," Hiskey said.

She emphasized the allegations do not involve any students.

But it's not just Jennifer Gonzales who is in jail.

Her husband was arrested after she reported to police that during a fight over the massage incident he brandished a Glock 9 mm handgun and threatened to kill her, according to the affidavit.

"It was reported as a domestic-violence issue," Wright said. "Then it just kind of evolved from that."

As Jennifer Gonzales filled out a protective order with the victim's advocate at the police station Monday, officers interviewed her husband and gathered a few more details, Wright said.

Richard Gonzales told police he came home from work Sunday, kicked in the locked bedroom door and saw the teen running to the bathroom pulling up his pants, and his wife partially unclothed in the room, according to the affidavit.

Richard Gonzales was arrested for investigation of aggravated assault and criminal mischief, after he admitted to threatening both his wife and the boy with the handgun, then burning their clothes, according to the affidavit.

During a bail hearing Tuesday morning, defense attorney Mike Esplin told Judge Lynn Davis that his client Jennifer Gonzales disputes the charges and that she is not a flight risk.

"She's not a person who's likely to re-offend," Esplin said. "There's not a danger here."

He added that Jennifer Gonzales is in the beginning stages of filing for divorce.

Esplin asked for $2,500 cash or bond bail, not the $10,000 cash or bond requested by government prosecutor Mariane O'Bryant.

Davis set Jennifer Gonzales' bail at $10,000 cash or bond, and her husband's at $20,000 cash or bond.

They will be in court again April 8 at 8:30 a.m.


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com

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