Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in the trial of a retired Iredell County elementary school teacher who faces more than 100 child sexual abuse charges involving students in the 1970s and 1980s, prosecutors said Monday.
John Thomas Patterson, 66, of Mooresville was arrested in February 2013 and initially charged with inappropriately touching four male students at the former Mount Mourne Elementary School during the mid- to late 1980s. At the time, he was charged with 14 counts of taking indecent liberties.
More witnesses and victims soon came forward, and the investigation by the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office grew to include at least 20 former students and more than 110 charges. He was arrested a second time a month later.
All but one of the charges is for taking indecent liberties against a child, court records show. The other charge is for first-degree sex offense with a child.
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“Most of the incidents occurred in the classroom, although there are some occasions that the abuse occurred outside the classroom,” Sheriff Phil Redmond said after Patterson’s second arrest last year.
Last year, a man told the Observer he was 9 years old and in fourth grade at Mount Mourne when the teacher “would walk up to your desk, stick his hand between my legs and start messing with you.”
The man, who didn’t want to be identified, said his younger brother also had been victimized, but neither knew about the other until the Sheriff’s Office arrested Patterson.
Patterson has been free since his two arrests, under a $100,000 bond after the first arrest and $350,000 bond after the second arrest.
Patterson worked for the old Iredell County School system, which later merged with the Statesville Schools, from 1971 to 1987, according to school personnel records. He taught fourth grade at Mount Mourne Elementary from 1978 to 1987, when he resigned.
Redmond said last year that the allegations involve both male and female students, but most of the alleged victims were males between the ages of 9 and 11. “The allegations are primarily of fondling and inappropriate touching,” Redmond said.
He also said that Patterson was a well-liked teacher who “befriended many of the families of the children” who allegedly were abused.
Patterson’s trial is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Kevin Bridges in Iredell County Superior Court.