Former Prairie Elementary School teacher’s aide Eric Ernest Echols was sentenced to 11 years in state prison Dec. 21 after pleading no contest to sexually abusing seven students at the school. Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department
Former Prairie Elementary School teacher’s aide Eric Ernest Echols was sentenced to 11 years in state prison Dec. 21 after pleading no contest to sexually abusing seven students at the school. Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department

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Teachers’ aide sentenced to 11 years for molesting children at Sacramento school

By Darrell Smith And Diana Lambert

dvsmith@sacbee.com

December 28, 2017 10:10 AM

Former Prairie Elementary School teacher’s aide Eric Ernest Echols was sentenced to 11 years in state prison for molesting six students at the Sacramento school.

Echols, 30, was sentenced Dec. 21 in Sacramento Superior Court on seven counts, including six felonies for lewd and lascivious acts against children younger than 14, after he pleaded no contest to the crimes in October in Sacramento Superior Court.

Echols received a sentencing “strike” and must register as a sex offender upon his release.

Echols was 29 in September 2016 when he was arrested after a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department investigation into alleged inappropriate contact with children ages 7 and 8 at the Elk Grove Unified School District campus between July 2015 and June 2016. The district placed him on paid administrative leave.

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Sacramento County prosecutors later alleged Echols touched the genitalia of some of his victims under their clothing, including one who he made to sit on his lap while playing a board game.

Each child who came forward was represented in the plea agreement, said prosecutors, who said the pact protected Echols’ victims from having to face him at trial.

Echols, an aide at the elementary school campus in the Valley Hi neighborhood, also was an aide at other Elk Grove Unified schools, according to district officials.

Elk Grove Unified, the area’s largest school district with 63,000 students, has had seven employees or volunteers arrested on suspicion of inappropriate conduct or sexual acts against children in little more than a year:

On Sept. 25, Monte Antonio Reed, 40, a former Cosumnes Oaks High School geography teacher, was arrested in Long Beach for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old student who attended the Elk Grove school and for allegedly molesting two other teens. His next court date is Jan. 29.

On Oct. 30, John “Juan” Richard Young, 53, a former Sheldon High School teacher, was sentenced to 16 months in prison for committing a sexual act with a student at the campus in Sacramento County. Young’s inappropriate relationship with the 17-year-old student was discovered when the victim’s family found text messages between the teacher and the teen, according to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. Young, who taught Spanish at Sheldon, was arrested at his home in May.

On Dec. 14, Christopher Aurelio Navarrete, 35, of Sacramento, a crossing guard at Marion Mix Elementary School in Elk Grove, was sentenced to 18 months in state prison after pleading no contest to three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child. The victim was a 14-year-old who was not a student at the school, according to the Sheriff's Department. He was arrested in February.

In December 2016, Christopher C. Kinney, 30, an Elk Grove resident and volunteer at Prairie Elementary School, was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to produce child pornography. The alleged crime did not involve students at the school. Kinney’s case is being heard in San Francisco federal court.

On July 18, Rudolph Robert Buehler, 36, a teacher at Florin High School in Sacramento, was sentenced to three years of informal probation for sexual battery of a student. Buehler pleaded no contest to annoying a child, a misdemeanor. He was arrested in April 2016.

On May 16, Sheldon High School physical education teacher John Misplay, 43, was sentenced to 120 days in jail and five years’ probation for statutory rape. He was arrested in March for engaging in inappropriate communications with two 17-year-old students.

All the school employees arrested or under investigation were fingerprinted and passed a Department of Justice background check before they were hired, Elk Grove Unified spokeswoman Xanthi Pinkerton said in May.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith