Hernando County School District employee arrested and charged with Sexual Battery

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A Hernando County School District employee was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with multiple counts of Sexual Battery. Marcus Gerard Wells, 34, of Spring Hill, was employed as an In-School-Suspension monitor. On Monday, just before noon, a student notified the School Resource Officer at Fox Chapel Middle School that inappropriate contact had occurred between Wells and another student.

According to School Superintendent, Dr. Lori Romano, Wells was removed from contact with students and kept isolated while the School Resource Officer investigated the claim. Wells was sent home Monday by the District, and ordered to appear at the School District building the following morning, while the Sheriff’s Office continued their investigation.

After interviewing Wells on Tuesday, he made admissions confirming the allegations to HCSO deputies who were investigating the case. Wells was taken into custody at 3:20 PM and immediately charged with 4 counts of Sexual Battery of a Person Over 12 to 18 years of age, by a Person who is in Familial or Custodial Authority. Superintendent Romano was notified Tuesday evening of Wells arrest and he was immediately terminated from his employment with the Hernando County School District.

Superintendent Romano stated during a press conference held at the Hernando County Emergency Operations Center Wednesday morning, “We will not tolerate behavior that puts our students at risk. We hope that the actions of this one individual will not sully the integrity of the many wonderful and hard-working staff of the Hernando County School District.”

Superintendent Romano confirmed that Marcus Wells was also a football coach and was employed by the District for 8 years. He is also believed to be involved in other sports outside of the School District and has affiliations with at least one local church. When asked about other possible victims, Sheriff Nienhuis stated “We don’t have any specific indication that that has occurred with any other individual. However, we do find that in cases like this, when somebody does this kind of thing, often times when it is brought to law enforcement’s attention it is not the first instance. We would not be surprised if there are other victims.” Sheriff Nienhuis went on to ask parents to speak to their children if they have been in contact with Wells. Because of Wells tenure with the School District and other activities involving children, it is possible there are more victims. “It’s probably a good time for parents to have a heart-to-heart with their children about any possible inappropriate contact.”

When asked about support services, such as counseling available for the victim, the complainant, and their families, the Sheriff and Dr. Romano explained that the School District has a care team in place just for these instances to help victims and their families cope with the trauma. The Sheriff also explained that the State’s Attorney has victim services available, and that these services are highly recommended in cases like this.

Because of the nature of the crimes alleged against Wells, he was first arrested without bond. However, he has subsequently been awarded an $80,000 bond, and if released, must wear a GPS monitor. He would not be allowed unsupervised contact with anyone under 18 and would be barred from contacting the victim in this case. If convicted, Wells faces life in prison on each of the four counts.

If a parent has any information about possible inappropriate contact between Mr. Wells and their child, they are encouraged to call the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office at (352) 754-6830.

Suncoast Standard (c) May 24, 2017 at 6:10 PM
Submitted by: Dawn Jaglowski, Investigative Reporter

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