Merced County teacher arrested for 'inappropriate touching' with juvenile hall inmates

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A 64-year-old teacher is accused of sexually abusing underage inmates in a Merced County Jail.

A 64-year-old teacher is accused of sexually abusing underage inmates in a Merced County Jail.

The Merced County Sheriff's Office says Marilouise Hawks taught inmates at Iris Garrett Juvenile Justice Complex for nine years until they got a tip she was having inappropriate relationships with minors.

Hawks first raised red flags in October last year after employees at juvenile hall uncovered notes she was sending to inmates. Investigators say a key witness also came forward and shared crucial information.

"The initial allegations of reported misconduct was by another student who was also an inmate at the juvenile justice complex that witnessed the misconduct," said Sgt. Delray Shelton.

Shelton says the Atwater woman is suspected of inappropriately touching two 17-year-old teenage boys housed inside the facility.

"She was also posting photos of the in-custody inmates to their Facebook page to promote their gang activity and their gang status," said Shelton.

Investigators tell Action News Hawks was caught smuggling cell phones into the jail and putting money in her victims' commissary accounts which is often used to buy snacks.

The Merced County Office confirmed she taught at Los Banos Valley Community School until staff members were alerted by detectives.

"As soon as we heard about allegations of inappropriate action we stepped forward took her out of the classroom and fully cooperated with the Sheriff's Office," said Nathan Quevedo.

School leaders say Hawks passed a background check before she was hired. Investigators have not ruled out the possibility there are other victims out there. Hawks was booked into the county jail but has since posted bail.

The Merced County Sheriff's Office released the following statement to Action News:

Teacher Arrested for "Misconduct"

Merced County California- Detectives with Merced County Sheriff's Office has a Merced County Teacher in custody, after a comprehensive investigation of "Misconduct" with Juvenile Inmates. Major Crimes Detective Mike Ruiz, arrested Marilouise Hawks, 07/05/1950, Tuesday afternoon. (01-27-2015) on charges of Contact w/a Minor w/ Intent to Commit Sexual Offenses, Bringing or Taking Written Messages from Inmates, Bringing Cell Phones into a Correctional Facility and Participation in a Criminal Street Gang.

Sheriff's Detectives launched a comprehensive investigation in October of 2014, after a Juvenile Inmate/ Student, at the Iris Garret Juvenile Justice Complex, in Merced, came forward to staff, reporting witnessing misconduct between Hawks and Juvenile Inmates.

Sheriff's Detectives learned Hawks was inappropriately touching Juvenile Inmates, passing notes on behalf of Inmates, bringing cell phones illegally into the facility for Inmates and placing currency on inmates accounts. In addition, she was promoting gang activity for inmates by posting photos on Facebook of in custody juveniles, to promote their gang status.

During the course of the investigation, authorities learned Hawks has been employed as a Teacher with the Merced County Office of Education since 1999; assigned to provide Educational Services to Inmates at the Iris Garret Juvenile Justice Complex, for the last 9 years.

Hawks was removed from her teaching position at the facility after she was caught passing a note to a Juvenile Inmate in October of 2014. Hawks was later placed on Administrative leave by Merced County Office of Education in November of 2014. Officials with Merced County Office of Education are cooperating with the investigation and Sheriff's Detectives.

Details on the case are limited, for the purpose of the investigation integrity. As additional information becomes available, it will be released.

Related Topics:
crimetrackersex crimesteacher arrestedMerced CountyLos Banos
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