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Ex-Teacher Faces Molestation Trial

Crime: Now serving time in an unrelated federal pornography case, Paul Kreutzer is accused of lewd conduct with girls.

January 23, 2002|JEAN GUCCIONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 36-year-old woman has accused her fifth-grade science teacher of molesting her as a child.

The woman testified in a Van Nuys courtroom last year that at age 10 she told the principal at Our Lady of Peace school in North Hills that Paul Kreutzer had molested her.

The principal spanked and derided her until she said she was lying, the woman said.

After that she didn't think much about Kreutzer, she said. His arrest in March 2000 on federal child pornography charges, however, sparked her childhood memories, she testified. She talked to authorities, and more criminal charges were filed against him.

She is one of nine women, most now in their 30s, and a teenage girl who have accused Kreutzer of molestation, said Deputy Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Andrea Thompson. They are expected to testify that Kreutzer, 63, molested them as children.

He is charged with 31 counts of lewd conduct with a child under 14 in crimes dating to 1968. If convicted, the former president of the Santa Clarita Historical Society faces up to life in prison.

"This is without a doubt the most horrendous case that I have had the opportunity to handle in my 20 years of doing this kind of work," Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lloyd M. Nash said last February, after presiding over the preliminary hearing.

Jury selection began Tuesday in Van Nuys before another judge, Barry A. Taylor.

The former teacher, who worked in San Fernando Valley public and parochial schools for nearly three decades, is serving 30 months in prison on the unrelated federal pornography case. Kreutzer was dismissed by the Los Angeles Unified School District on Nov. 26.

The archdiocese has declined to comment on alleged offenses that occurred while Kreutzer worked in Catholic grade schools.

In the molestation case, at least five of his alleged victims said Kreutzer befriended unsuspecting parents to gain access to their daughters. Most of the alleged crimes occurred while the girls were between 10 and 13.

Among the alleged victims are two Vietnamese sisters who immigrated to the United States in 1975 and lived with Kreutzer to help them better assimilate into their new community, according to Kreutzer's lawyer and the two women. A few students went on overnight camping trips with him.

Kreutzer taught one of his alleged victims to folk dance and paid for another's piano lessons, according to transcripts of the preliminary hearing.

Kreutzer's lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Rose Reglos, said her client denies all the criminal allegations. "He didn't do it," she said.

Reglos said Kreutzer had "very close relationships with some of these girls," especially the Vietnamese sisters, who lived with him for years and called him Daddy.

"He treated them like his children," she said, even helping to pay their college tuition.

For years after they left his home, they continued to call him whenever they needed help, financial or otherwise, Reglos said. "He still loves them.

"It's very painful for him," she said. "He doesn't understand why this is happening."

The oldest in the group of alleged victims, who is now 44, said she met Kreutzer in 1968 through the folk dance group he organized that met on Saturdays at Holy Redeemer school in Montrose.

The youngest, who is now 15, testified that Kreutzer molested her in 1996 while he was a teacher at Sunland Elementary School. She said Kreutzer told her to disrobe while playing "Simon Says" at his house, according to court records.

Several allegations involve the Vietnamese sisters who moved into Kreutzer's one-bedroom La Crescenta apartment in 1975.

The sisters had left Saigon with their parents and a brother on April 29, 1975, and headed to the United States. After living in refugee camps, they settled in Montrose.

Kreutzer met the girls' family through Holy Redeemer Catholic Church and offered to help them assimilate into the community, according to his lawyer and testimony by the older sister.

"I went to live with him because my parents felt that it was a good opportunity since he was tutoring us in English," the woman, now 35, testified last year at the preliminary hearing.

At first, the girls took turns sleeping in a twin bed with Kreutzer, who the older sister testified would touch her while she slept.

Around 1977, they moved with Kreutzer to a mobile home park in Canyon Country, where they were later joined by their youngest sister.

There, according to testimony, the alleged sexual abuse escalated. The youngest sister, now 32, testified that she shared a bed with Kreutzer for five years, as the touching progressed to intercourse.

"We would usually take showers with Paul....We would all be naked and he would shower and shampoo us," she said.

Another alleged victim testified that Kreutzer bathed her.

The woman, who had had back surgery and wore a body cast, said Kreutzer regularly bathed her at her own home and molested her there, with her parents in another room.

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