A jury deliberated for nearly 1 1/2 hours without reaching a verdict Thursday 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.
The Iredell County Superior Court jury will resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
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.
Patterson was arrested a second time a month later. More witnesses and victims had come forward, authorities said. The investigation by the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office grew to include at least 20 former students and more than 100 charges.
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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.
The incidents occurred in Patterson’s fourth-grade classroom, according to the testimony of 11 men in Iredell County Superior Court since June 1. One man testified that Patterson assaulted him as the teacher recited Bible verses aloud.
On the witness stand this week, Patterson maintained his innocence. “I didn’t molest any boys,” Patterson testified.
In his closing statement Thursday, Patterson’s lawyer, Will Willis, said, “Thomas looked you in the eye and told you he didn’t do it. There’s doubt at every turn in this case.”
Prosecutor Crystal Beale on Thursday went over the testimony of the men who said Patterson sexually assaulted them as boys. “Don’t let this man creep back into the darkness,” Beale told the jury in her closing statement. “He is guilty of every count. Find him guilty.”
Patterson has been free since his two arrests, under a $100,000 bond after the first arrest and a $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 after a parent complained her son had been sexually molested, according to testimony during the trial.