Irving teacher molested 7-year-old girl, then went to teach in another school, police say
IRVING, TX – A former Irving elementary school teacher has been arrested and accused of molesting one of his students in the second grade during the 2020-21 school year, Irving police said Thursday.
Irving police believe other students may have been sexually abused by the teacher.
Police identified the suspect as 28-year-old Victor Hugo Moreno, who was arrested last week and was released from jail after posting a $15,000 bond.
He faces charges of continuous sex abuse of a young child and improper relationship between student and educator, Irving police said.
The 28-year-old former teacher is accused of sexually abusing a 7-year-old girl who was in the second grade at Townsell Elementary in Irving. Moreno was her teacher.
Irving school district officials received an outcry in the spring semester of the 2021-22 school year.
Moreno resigned from the Irving school district at the end of the 2020-21 school year after failing to meet his certification requirements, Irving police said.
Moreno taught in the Plano school district during the 2021-22 school year and was fired because of a code of conduct violation, police said.
School and police officials are encouraging anyone whose whose child could have interacted with Moreno in the Irving and Plano school districts to talk with their children, family members, and friends to make them aware of Moreno.
If you know of a victim or are a victim, contact the Irving Police Department at 972-273-1010 or call your local police department, or dial 911.
Medical experts say Elijah Lewis appears to have been ‘tortured’
Autopsy raises new questions about texts sent by New Hampshire child’s mother
The sores were something you’d see on someone living in a derelict nursing home — or someone held in restraints. The malnourishment hinted at weeks, if not months, without adequate food. And then there was the trauma to the head.
The final days of 5-year-old Elijah Lewis’s short life remain shrouded in mystery, but medical experts say the recent autopsy findings alone suggest the shaggy-haired little boy from Merrimack, N.H., suffered a level of abuse that went far beyond what they typically see.
“It’s more than just . . . minor medical neglect,” said Alice W. Newton, medical director of the Child Protection Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It would fall into the category of torture, really.”
The autopsy results also raise new questions about text messages sent by the boy’s mother, Danielle Dauphinais, 35, who is being held without bail in New Hampshire along with her boyfriend, Joseph Stapf, 30. In the January texts sent to a friend and obtained by the Globe, Dauphinais said she argued with Stapf’s mother for giving Elijah too much food, saying “this child will eat till he pukes.” Stapf’s mother, according to Dauphinais’s text, said it was “child abuse” to withhold food from a child.
Reached Monday, Dauphinais’s attorney, Jaye Rancourt, declined to comment on the messages, saying that “without verification that this is actually a text message from my client, I can’t really respond. This could be a complete fabrication.”
The texts match a detailed description of the messages given by the person who originally received them.
Questions about the circumstances of Elijah’s death have only grown since his body was discovered in the woods of Abington, Mass., on Oct. 23, following a 10-day search that included law enforcement agencies from at least five states. Since then, authorities have released little in the way of details as they continue to investigate. Meanwhile, relatives and people who lived near the child’s home in Merrimack say they seldom saw the boy in the months leading up to his disappearance.
The Massachusetts medical examiner’s office last month ruled the boy’s death a homicide, determining the cause to be “violence and neglect, including facial and scalp injuries, acute fentanyl intoxication, malnourishment and pressure ulcers.” Pressure ulcers, more commonly referred to as bedsores, are typically found in bedridden people unable to change position.
But neither Dauphinais nor Stapf has been charged with murder. Instead, they are being held on charges of child endangerment and witness tampering related to their alleged attempts to mislead investigators trying to determine the boy’s whereabouts in October. Both have pleaded not guilty.
It remains unclear how involved New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families was with the boy prior to his disappearance. The agency has declined to comment on the case, though authorities have said that DCYF initially reported the boy missing to law enforcement on Oct. 14, and Dauphinais told a friend last June that she’d been in contact with the agency.
Texts sent by Dauphinais to another friend and obtained by the Globe make it clear that she had serious concerns about her son, including the amount he ate, at least nine months before the boy was discovered missing.
In a text to a friend on Jan. 7, Dauphinais complained that Stapf’s mother, Joanne — with whom the couple shared a home — was feeding the boy against her wishes. Dauphinais said Joanne Stapf would also “baby him and love on him” even when Elijah acted up. “I made Elijah a decent plate of food and she insisted on giving him seconds,” Dauphinais wrote in a January text. “I told her no because this child will eat till he pukes and then eat some more. I also told her that he’s having cake after so there is no need for seconds.” “She said I was wrong and that was child abuse,” Dauphinais continued. “She said that she’s an Italian grandma and that she considers this child abuse in her family. Like wtf!”
According to two physicians who spoke with the Globe, both of whom specialize in cases of child abuse or neglect, the details outlined in the autopsy report paint a particularly grim picture. Though neither is involved with the case or privy to case files, both described the autopsy findings to be extreme, even within the realm of neglect cases.
“This is not like an everyday thing,” said Dr. Suzanne Haney, a Nebraska-based child abuse pediatrician who serves as the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Child Abuse and Neglect. “This extreme of a case, fortunately, is very rare.”
Both doctors described the bedsores, in particular, as highly irregular in a developmentally normal child. The painful, circular lesions are almost never seen in young, physically mobile patients, leading them to believe that Elijah could have been restrained in some way prior to his death.
“Skin breakdown or bedsores is not something you’d ever see in a healthy 5-year-old,” said Newton. “That, to me, speaks to being tied down . . . or [being] so weak or malnourished that he was unable to move at the end of his life.”
Added Haney, “If you combine malnourishment and pressure ulcers, I’m thinking he was either restrained or his malnourishment was to the point where . . . he was unconscious or semiconscious for a period of time.”
Either condition would’ve been a red flag to doctors, said Newton — but it’s unclear whether Dauphinais ever took Elijah to see a physician in New Hampshire.
Born in Arizona in 2016, the boy spent much of his early life in the custody of his father following his parents’ contentious 2017 divorce. In divorce paperwork, Timothy Lewis accused Dauphinais of being “violent and impulsive” and having a “history of domestic violence and substance abuse.” A decree approved by the court blocked Dauphinais from spending time with her son.
Last May, however, for unclear reasons, Elijah arrived in New Hampshire to live with Dauphinais and her boyfriend, Stapf.
Though initially excited by her son’s arrival, Dauphinais, two friends said, soon became exasperated by what she described as the boy’s myriad behavioral issues. In texts to a friend last summer, Dauphinais likened her son to a serial killer, saying she felt no connection to the child and that she wanted him “gone.”
One friend, Michelle O’Brien, who has known Dauphinais since both were teenagers, told the Globe she’d provided the name of a pediatrician to Dauphinais, but did not know whether she ever followed up on it.
The office of New Hampshire Attorney General John M. Formella, which is handling the case, has declined to release records of previous police visits to the home that Dauphinais and Stapf shared, though neighbors said police were a common presence at the residence, which backs up to a quiet lake.
New Hampshire Representative Kimberly Rice, who chairs the House committee on children and family law, acknowledged that the state’s child welfare agency has suffered from staffing issues that have left it hamstrung.
“I don’t think they’re doing a bad job at DCYF,” said Rice. “We have positions that need to be filled that are funded, but the people aren’t there, and if the people aren’t there, I don’t know how you continue to hold an agency accountable when you can’t get the positions filled.”
As the criminal case moves forward, meanwhile, Moira O’Neill, director of the New Hampshire Office of the Child Advocate, said her office would be opening an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Elijah’s death.
Appointed by New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu in 2018, O’Neill provides oversight of the state’s child protection services, as well as “holding systems accountable,” according to the state website.
But with a small office currently engaged in other cases, she cautioned that the process could take up to a year to complete.
“If what’s reported in the newspapers is correct,” O’Neill said, “it does sound as though this was a preventable death.”
Police say the mother, 20-year-old Midaysia Highwalker, took the baby, Leyla Rivera, after an altercation with the baby’s father.
People nearby say they often hear arguing.
“We hear them argue all the time, mainly just over dumb, stupid stuff,” neighbor Matthew Seal said.
“I have from time to time heard a little bit of screaming and yelling,” Jamie Jack, family member of a neighbor, said.
Police say the situation then escalated.
“The female, mother of the child, took the baby, indicated that she might harm herself and the baby,” MSgt. Gary Knight with Oklahoma City Police said.
According to the arrest warrant for Highwalker, the baby’s father called his mother saying he needed help removing the baby from the apartment. He said Highwalker had people over at the residence, and Midaysia was smoking marijuana around the child. The warrant goes on to say, “Midaysia forcefully took the child from [the father], grabbing the small infant by her head. Midaysia proceeded to strike [the father’s] head repeatedly and threw various items at him. Midaysia grabbed a black carjack from the front of the residence and forcefully struck [the father] in the back of his head, causing injury.”
The warrant says Midaysia said she was going to kill the baby’s father and his mother and left the residence with the baby.
That sparked an Amber Alert Thursday morning.
However, Highwalker’s sister, who did not want her name disclosed, says that’s unlike her. “She might’ve said something to get him away from her, but she wouldn’t make threats and she wouldn’t go through with her threats,” she said.
Police searched for Highwalker and the baby. Both were found safe at a friend’s home in Midwest City.
“The mother’s in custody, we’ll interview her and see what came of the domestic,” Knight said.
According to Highwalker’s sister and cousin, there’s more to the story.
“Her boyfriend, he’s been putting his hands on her a long time now, and I feel like she did it just to get away from him, and his mom threatens her, tries to fight her, and they used the baby against her and so she just ran to get away,” her sister said.
“My cousin is a really good mom, and she don’t deserve to be locked up. Her baby daddy has been abusive their whole relationship,” Precious Hopgood, Highwalker’s cousin said.
Highwalker has been booked into the Oklahoma County Jail on complaints of domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, child neglect, domestic abuse in the presence of a minor, threatening to perform an act of violence, embezzlement and destroying property.
Senator Diane Sands, so in your opinion Children have no rights. Child Predators should have never been allowed near Children. Robert StrongBow
HELENA, MT – The Montana Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to advance two bills targeting transgender youth despite overwhelming testimony opposing the measures.
The measures would ban gender affirming surgeries for transgender minors and ban transgender athletes from participating in school and college sports.
Both bills have already passed the Montana House. They head next to votes by the GOP-controlled Montana Senate.
The measures passed votes by the committee along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.
“This is one of the most hateful heinous bills this session has ever considered, and I’m ashamed of us,” Democratic Sen. Diane Sands said Thursday on the bill banning gender affirming surgeries for transgender minors.
Earlier this week, the committee heard overwhelming testimony opposing the measures from medical providers, human rights activist and students in the state. They said the measures could harm the mental and physical health of an already vulnerable group.
Proponents of the measures said they would protect minors from undergoing irreversible surgeries they may later regret and would protect female athletes from competing against athletes with an unfair physical advantage.
“Transgender people deserve full human rights. But there is no human right to female sport, just like there is no human right for me to participate in a junior high school wrestling team,” Republican Rep. John Fuller, who sponsored both measures, said during a hearing on Wednesday.
Bills banning transgender athletes from participating in school sports have been introduced in more than 20 states this year. Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed such a ban last week.
In South Dakota, a similar bill was passed by Legislature. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has expressed support for it but has not signed the bill. A similar ban was enacted in Idaho last year, and quickly blocked by a federal judge as a lawsuit plays out.
Bills banning gender affirming medical treatments for minors have been introduced in at least a dozen other states, but none have been signed into law.