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November 21, 2012

Walton teacher's alleged victims 16

By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star

---- — WALTON — Details from depositions emerged Tuesday in the arrest of Stephanie M. Fletcher, a former Walton high school teacher accused of having sex with two underage students.

Fletcher, 28, of Walton, is charged with two counts of third-degree rape, one count of third-degree criminal sexual act and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

The charges involve two male students who were 16 years old at the time of the alleged rapes, according to court papers requested by The Daily Star.

One rape charge and a criminal sexual-conduct charge are linked to events that allegedly took place in the village of Walton during January and February 2011, according to the criminal complaints.

The other rape and sexual misconduct charges, along with the endangering charge, stem from events that allegedly occurred in the town of Tomkins during March and April of this year, the complaints said.

The endangering charge is the result of “half-clothed photos of herself” that Fletcher sent via text message — a practice known as sexting — to the alleged Walton victim, the complaint alleges.

The two rapes — both teen victims said in their depositions they had intercourse with Fletcher once — were in or near their homes, according to the complaints.

In the case of the Tompkins charges, the alleged victim said he had sex with Fletcher in his sister’s house, which was a short walk down a driveway from his house. The Walton victim told investigators he had sex with Fletcher on a sofa in his house, under the guise of tutoring, while everyone else was away.

The depositions, all of which were given from Nov. 7 to 12, describe additional assignations that stopped short of intercourse, including some “making out” in the parking lot of Walton Central School and other sexual conduct.

Fletcher, who is married, was also having an “affair” with a male teacher who may have known about her alleged trysts with students, according to a deposition filed in connection with the case.

“I believe he was having an affair with her (Fletcher), and he was mad that he knew I had also had sex with her,” one of Fletcher’s alleged victims told state police Investigator Laura A. Gregory.

The student alleges in his deposition that the male teacher was giving the student a hard time in English class because of that anger.

Fletcher made her first court appearance last Wednesday without an attorney, but she has since retained F. Paul Battisti of Battisti, Gartenman & Thayne of Binghamton. Battisti, reached by phone Tuesday, said he had nothing to say “at this time.”

Fletcher was released on her own recognizance, but, contrary to a report in Tuesday’s Daily Star, Sidney Justice Steven A. Rose said, he imposed two conditions. The first is an order of protection for the two victims, barring Fletcher from having any contact with them. The second prohibits Fletcher from having contact with anyone under the age of 18 without being in the presence of a responsible adult.

Rose also said that Delaware County District Attorney Richard D. Northrup had recused himself from the case, and that a special prosecutor would be appointed. It was not clear why Northrup asked for the recusal, and he did not respond to a message left with his office Tuesday.

It also was unclear why the case was brought in Sidney Town Court, although Rose said that, under state law, any felony complaint originating in Delaware County could be filed in any town court in the county.

Both of the victims say in depositions accompanying the complaints that Fletcher threatened to kill herself if they ever let their secret out.

Another deposition, given Nov. 12 by a 23-year-old whose name was redacted, indicated that Fletcher may have attempted to carry through with that threat. The deponent told investigators that just after Fletcher resigned from her teaching position — sometime in the past few months, according to the Walton Central School District — Fletcher’s husband, Kirk, called to ask for help.

“When I got there, Stephanie was on the back porch, smoking a cigarette,” the deposition says. “She was drunk. She had used a box cutter to cut her wrist before I got there.”

That deposition says the Fletcher’s mother arrived and spent the night with her, and then took her to the crisis center at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown the next morning. She stayed there for the day, the deposition says.

Stephanie Marie Sonner and Kirk Fletcher were married July 10, 2010, according to a notice of their wedding in The Daily Record in December of that year.

The bride had graduated from Walton Central School in 2002 and earned a degree in biology from Hartwick College in Oneonta.

George F. Mack, interim superintendent for the Walton Central School District, said Tuesday that Fletcher had worked in the district “about five years,” but he could not be more specific.

Mack, who is in his third month as superintendent, said the district was sending a letter to parents of students at the school Tuesday and read it over the phone.

“This matter is a police matter,” it said, in part. “The state police are conducting an investigation. As it is a matter of investigation, we are constrained from releasing any further information.”

The letter requests that parents who have questions or additional information “please contact the appropriate legal entity.”

“Our first concern is our students,” the letter concludes. “They come first.”