Law enforcement arrested biology teacher Anessa Paige Gower, 35, at Sacramento International Airport on April 6 as she was returning to California from Hawaii. She was subsequently transported to the Martinez Detention Facility, where she is currently in custody. Gower's bail has been set at almost $2 million.
The Contra Costa District Attorney's Office (CCDA) filed 29 individual criminal counts against Gower on April 8, two days after her arrest. The charges filed in the Contra Costa County Superior Court alleged that she engaged in "numerous acts of a sexual nature with minors" between 2021 and 2022. The identities of the seven students victimized by Gower were withheld as they were all minors.
"Investigators took statements from the victims and witnesses about a number of incidents involving sex acts with minors, inappropriate touching and sharing sexually graphic photos over online platforms," an April 9 statement by the CCDA said.
Prior to her arrest, Gower had worked at Making Waves Academy (MWA) in the city of Richmond. More than 1,100 students are enrolled in the charter school for fifth through twelfth grades, as per its website. (Related: Fairview Elementary School's 2020 Teacher of the Year arrested, charged with sex crimes.)
MWA CEO Alton Nelson Jr. confirmed that Gower had been terminated from the school following her April 6 arrest.
"During the course of an investigation into allegations that one of our teachers violated school policy, we learned of additional highly concerning allegations involving that teacher's conduct. We immediately shared that information with authorities who are reviewing that matter. That teacher is no longer employed by MWA and we have reached out to parents, students and faculty to provide support where it might be needed. There is nothing more important than the health, safety and well-being of our students," he said in a statement to KRON 4.
The incident involving Gower was not the first time the Richmond-based charter school was involved in sexual crimes against children. Back in 2017, Ronald David Guinto was sentenced to 931 years behind bars for molesting 15 boys during his tenure at MWA. According to law enforcement, the 38-year-old used the Camp Epic youth program he founded as a ruse to get close to his victims – mostly boys 11 and 12 years old.
Guinto worked at MWA from 2011 to 2013, but was fired in late 2013 and was subsequently investigated by law enforcement after allegations initially surfaced. He was then briefly hired by the West Contra Costa School District before the sexual misconduct allegations were made public, but was terminated soon after.
Twelve of the 15 victims sued MWA in 2015, alleging that the charter school "knew or should have known" the risks associated with Guinto. It pointed to the former teacher's termination from a Boy Scouts program years earlier as an example of this risk. The 2015 lawsuit also alleged that MWA did not prevent Guinto from using his status as a teacher to convince parents to sign their children up for Camp Epic.
However, an attorney later said the plaintiffs opted to receive a combined $10.9 million to settle the lawsuit with MWA.
Nelson confirmed the settlement with the plaintiffs and defended the charter school in a statement, saying: "We are pleased to have reached a settlement. While MWA had no prior knowledge of Guinto's abuse, nor was his Camp Epic program part of MWA's extracurricular activities, [his] conduct was reprehensible. Our sympathies continue to go out to children and families who were impacted."
Civil attorney Charles Bonner, who represented the 12 plaintiffs, said: "If you hurt children, you've got to pay. These vulnerable children can't defend themselves. MWA failed to protect them."
Evil.news has more stories about teachers committing sexual crimes on children.
Watch Alex Jones talk about Arizona State Sen. Tony Navarrete's arrest on child molestation charges below.
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