Thursday, February 22, 2018
Public safety

Hernando sheriff: Middle school staffer accused of sexually assaulting student

SPRING HILL — A staffer and coach at Fox Chapel Middle School was arrested Tuesday, accused of sexually assaulting a student on the school's campus.

Marcus Gerard Wells, 34, of Spring Hill, an in-school suspension monitor, sexually battered a female student eight times over two weeks, Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis said during a news conference Wednesday.

He faces four counts of sexual battery of a victim 12 to 18 years old by a person in custodial authority, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. The agency did not identify the girl or her age, saying only that she is a minor between the ages of 12 and 18.

Wells was fired after his arrest Tuesday. He spent eight years with the school district, officials said, and coached basketball, football and softball at the school.

The assaults took place May 8 through May 19 in the in-school suspension room, according to Wells' arrest report. The investigation started Monday when someone the sheriff called "a courageous young person" told the school's resource officer that the girl was involved in an inappropriate relationship with Wells.

Text messages found on the girl's cellphone confirmed the allegations, the report said.

Wells was immediately isolated from students, Hernando County school superintendent Lori Romano said at the news conference. He reported to the district office on Tuesday, where he was arrested and fired by the school system.

After Wells was read his rights, according to the arrest report, he admitted to the allegations.

"We will not tolerate behavior that puts our students at risk," Romano said. "We hope that the actions of this one individual will not sully the integrity of the many wonderful and hardworking staff of the Hernando County School District."

Investigators are now trying to find out if Wells assaulted other students, the sheriff said.

"We would not be surprised if there are other victims," Nienhuis said. "It's probably a good time for parents to have a heart to heart with their children about any possible inappropriate contact."

The sheriff said Wells was active in the community. He is the grandson of the late pastor of New Jerusalem Church of God Twin Lake, Irene Wells, who died in January. He invited Nienhuis to attend her funeral.

This was Marcus Wells' first arrest in Florida, records show. He remained in the Hernando County Detention Center on Wednesday, held in lieu of $80,000 bail.

Contact Josh Solomon at [email protected] Follow @josh_solomon15.

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