Gilbert Junior HS softball coach accused of sexual conduct with minor

Posted: Updated:
Jael Cerda, 23 (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Jael Cerda, 23 (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
Jael Cerda (Source: Gilbert Police Department) Jael Cerda (Source: Gilbert Police Department)

Second school employee arrested this week

GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- A softball coach at Gilbert Junior High School has been arrested for alleged sexual activity with a female student. It’s the second arrest of a Gilbert Junior High School employee in two days.

Jael Cerda, 23, is not a teacher. Police described him, instead, as a paraprofessional. A paraprofessional is somebody who is trained to assist a professional in a given field but is not licensed to practice in that profession by him or herself.

Court paperwork shows he had worked at the school for two years. 

"This is the safety of our children, and we've had two instances in two days, so that's very concerning," said Trisha Bushaw, the adult sibling of a Gilbert Junior High student. 

[RAW VIDEO: Gilbert superintendent speaks on recent arrests at Gilbert Jr. High]

Cerda is accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student in his car on Feb. 11 off school property.

Investigators were recording as the victim called him Wednesday. In that one-party consent call, police say Cerda admitted to having intercourse with the girl. He was arrested at his home that evening.

After being read his Miranda rights, police say he admitted again to his relationship with the student, saying it happened only once. 

“We have no information indicating there are any other victims in this incident, and there does not appear to be a connection to the other investigation from Gilbert Junior High School earlier this week,” Krueger said. “Further, there is no indication any of the sexual activities happened on school property, or during school hours.”

The “other investigation” to which Krueger referred is Monday’s arrest of a Gilbert Junior High School teacher. Benjamin Maleek Bedell, 37, is accused of having an “inappropriate relationship with a student.” He is charged with endangerment of a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Both are misdemeanors.

[READ: Gilbert Junior High teacher accused of 'inappropriate relationship with a student']

Cerda faces more serious charges – two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of sexual abuse.

Krueger said the girl’s parents and the school “appropriately involved law enforcement at an early stage, to ensure the safety of the victim and other students at the school.”

“I think they need to do more background checks, I think more involvement in their staff on a daily basis. Paying them more, bringing in frankly higher quality staff. I think not bringing in people from off campus to teach our sports," parent Chris Timmick said.

The district says both men passed background checks before they were hired. 

Gilbert Junior High School is one of Gilbert Public Schools' six junior highs. According to the school's website, 600 students are enrolled.

STATEMENT FROM GILBERT PUBLIC SCHOOLS:

"This morning, Gilbert Junior High administration was informed of the arrest of Jael Cerda. He is being investigated for an inappropriate relationship with a student. Our priority is to provide a safe learning and school environment for all of our students. This morning the District’s crisis response team was on hand to support students and staff."

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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