Valley principal commits suicide amid sex crimes investigation

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Fresno County Sheriff?s detectives are working to track down sex abuse victims, after a Valley principal, who was under investigation for sex crimes, killed himself on Friday. (KFSN)

Fresno County Sheriff's detectives are working to track down sex abuse victims, after a Valley principal, who was under investigation for sex crimes, killed himself Friday morning.

Investigators say 42-year-old Lance Clement, principal at Orange Center Elementary School, shot and killed himself. It happened as deputies began to execute a search warrant at his home for sex crimes allegations involving several young students.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims says detectives are looking for additional victims. She won't yet say how many are identified right now. And despite Clement's death, detectives and parents need to know what happened.

Students at Orange Center Elementary School are now on summer break. Parents say they'll need this time to recover after disturbing allegations emerged against Clement.

Carmela Rivera is fired up. She says she confronted school officials about the investigation Thursday and was told to ignore the "rumor."

"Just let us know what's going on, regardless if it was true of if it wasn't true," Rivera said. "I think we were entitled to know what's going on, especially in this case with child molestation and it being the principal."

Fresno County deputies went to Clement's home in Hanford early Friday morning to search for evidence. Investigators say Clement shot himself after they arrived.

Sheriff Margaret Mims says the sex crime investigation began one week ago when a school employee reported seeing clement in his office, in the dark with a fifth grade female student.

"Our concern now are for any students that might need some counseling help, to find out exactly what happened to that," Sheriff Mims said. "In addition to that the parents need to know."

Since then, detectives have interviewed more than 20 middle school girls. The sheriff says school officials took Clement's keys on Tuesday, ordering him to stay off campus.

Detectives searched his office. "When we looked at the computer we discovered that the hard drive was missing," Mims said. "So that raised additional flags for us."

Investigators removed computers from Clement's home, which will be examined by a forensics team.

In the meantime, parents say they're glad their kids aren't going back to school anytime soon. "My kids are my world, and not only mine but every parent," Rivera said. "We need to know what's really going on."

The Fresno County Office of Education is providing counselors for students who need someone to talk with. Sheriff Mims is also asking parents to call her office if they suspect anything happened with their children.
Related Topics:
sex crimescrimecrimetrackersuicidefresno countykings countyFresno - SouthwestEastonHanford
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