Army National Guard member arrested for allegedly molesting Porterville Military Academy student

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Army National Guard member James Van Norton, 40, is accused of numerous sex-related crimes involving a 14-year-old girl.

The Tulare County Sheriff's Office says he started working as an instructor at Porterville Military Academy last August.

That's where sheriff's officials say he met the girl, a student at the academy.

He's accused molesting her multiple times.

"What we can say is it happened more than once and we're not ruling it out that it occurred at school at this point," said Tulare County Sheriff's Lt. Joe Torres.

Lt. Torres says detectives with the crimes against children unit arrested Van Norton near his home in Porterville.

He had been under surveillance as investigators collected evidence in the case.

They say Van Norton was not working at the academy at the time of his arrest.

"Anytime there's an accusation like this, of any kind, whether you're a teacher or not-it's very concerning," Torres said. "It's sad to say that's the reason we have an entire unit that's dedicated to it. But when you have somebody who does this who's a teacher and has access to so many children, it's very concerning."

The sheriff's office says there could be additional victims.

So they're asking anyone with information about this case or any others to call them.

Van Norton is being held at the Tulare County Pre-Trial facility just north of Visalia.

If charged, he will be arraigned there Tuesday.

Porterville Unified School District released the following statement Monday afternoon:

"Porterville Unified School District was recently informed of an investigation by the Tulare County Sheriff's Office involving a military staff member, formerly assigned to the Porterville Military Academy. The individual has not been on campus for several months and is currently in custody and we are cooperating fully with law enforcement as the matter is investigated.

The district is committed to the safety and well-being of all of our students. All District staff receives regular training and guidance regarding the importance of maintaining appropriate relationships with students. The District encourages both students and staff to immediately report any perceived misconduct.

In response to this incident, we have deployed counseling and other resources to support students during this difficult time and ask anyone with information relevant to the investigation to contact the Tulare County Sheriff's Office at (559) 733-6218 or the District's Superintendent, Dr. Nate Nelson at (559) 793-2455."

Anyone with information on this case is encouraged to contact Detective Jose Nevarez or Sgt. Jason Kennedy with the Tulare County Sheriff's Office at (559) 733-6218. Or they can remain anonymous by calling or texting (559)725-4194, or through email at Refer to case number 19-3447.
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