A West High School music teacher accused of multiple sexual encounters with two choral students told police he was "in a dark place" when he crossed the line with the first girl.
He's also accused of groping a third girl, according to charging documents.
Christopher More, 29, was arrested Sunday and is being held in the Anchorage jail.
He appeared in jail court Monday afternoon on what would have been his first day back to school after winter break. His hands were shackled. He told the judge he couldn't afford a lawyer.
More taught five classes at West High and Romig Middle School. He is an accomplished singer and musician with long roots in the community. He is married with a young child, according to Anchorage School District Superintendent Carol Comeau.
No accusations of misconduct had been made before the police investigation began last month, she said. More had passed criminal background checks, had worked in the Mat-Su and was considered an excellent, charismatic teacher, she said. She had emceed for his concerts, she said.
The School District assigned extra counselors Monday to West and Romig to help students and staff struggling with the news, she said. The principals called staff meetings and met with each of his classes. The district also activated its robo-call system to alert parents at schools where he had taught and offer counseling support for students, Comeau said.
Anyone with additional information is urged to call police, she said.
"We take these adult-student issues very, very seriously," Comeau said. "I'm just appalled every time something happens like this. Because people should send their kids to school and feel safe and have their kids feel safe and just enjoy being in school. When anything like this happens, it puts a bad mark on the whole profession."
ADMITS SEXUAL RELATIONS
Authorities learned of the allegations when one of the girls contacted the Anchorage Police Department on Christmas Eve.
She told detectives she had a sexual relationship with More in late 2009 and early 2010, police say. At the time, she was 17 and a senior at West. She since has graduated. Lt. Dave Parker, a police spokesman, said he didn't know what had prompted her to contact police. Another of the girls told police there were rumors that More had become interested in younger girls, the charges say.
Last February, the 17-year-old became troubled about having a sexual relationship with her married teacher, police say. The relationship ended.
Soon after, More began having sexual encounters with another student, who was 15 at the time, the charges say. The girl told police that by the end of last school year she was performing oral sex on More about every day. More told police that the relationship resumed this fall, the charges say.
According to the charges, much of the contact with the 17-year-old girl also involved oral sex. She told police they had intercourse once. She panicked because he wasn't wearing a condom, and ended it.
Detectives interviewed More at his home on Saturday and police say he admitted having sexual relations with the two girls.
More and the 17-year-old were good friends with the third girl, he told police. They told the girl about their sexual relationship and he also sent that girl "dirty" e-mails, she told police.
When school let out for the year last May, the third girl hugged More goodbye and he rubbed and squeezed her breasts, the charges say. More denied to police that he had groped her.
More has been charged with felony counts of first- and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor as well as second-degree sexual assault based on the allegations that he touched the third girl without her consent. Police didn't provide her age.
Police suspect he might have additional victims.
TAUGHT AT FOUR SCHOOLS
Comeau praised the girls for coming forward.
The charges involving the older girl come under a state law that says people in positions of authority, like a teacher, coach or priest, who engage in sexual activity with someone younger than 18 can be prosecuted for sexual abuse of a minor. Normally, the age of consent is 16.
More's first teaching job was in the Mat-Su, where he was a part-time music teacher at Palmer High for the 2006-07 school year. He then taught at Williwaw Elementary in Anchorage and in the fall of 2008 became choir director for West and Romig.
He also was active in an adult music group at a local church. Parker said police contacted the church, ChangePoint, and determined that he didn't work with children or youths there.
He is a Service High graduate and has a master's degree in teaching from the University of Alaska Anchorage.
When he was 11, he was one of the winners of a citywide student music composition contest. He has performed with the Anchorage Opera and once was a part of the Batteries Not Included a cappella group. He sang the national anthem at Mayor Dan Sullivan's inauguration in 2009 after being recommended to the event's planners.
"As a teacher, my primary goal is to teach and help turn my singers into respectful, educated, responsible, well-rounded humans and positive contributors to society," he says on his School District Web page.
DISTRICT MOVES TO FIRE HIM
The 17-year-old took private singing lessons from him in the summer of 2009 after her junior year, then took several of his choral classes her senior year. That fall, More picked her up every morning for school.
Her father had died and initially she looked at More like a father figure, she told police.
When he asked her if there was more to it, she "told More that she had a bit of a crush on him, but that it was nothing that she couldn't control." But a few weeks later, he asked her for oral sex after driving her home from music practice, police say.
When a police detective asked him why he crossed the line, "he said he had been in a 'very dark place,' and a bad marriage," the charges say.
The sexual encounters happened in the West High choir office, the choir room, a school hallway, the Romig Middle School choir office, More's vehicle and his house, the 17-year-old told police.
Because of his admissions, the School District is taking immediate steps to fire More and will seek revocation of his teaching license, Comeau said.
Bail for More was set at $100,000, and he'll be required to be under the supervision of a court-approved party if released. His father stood up during Monday's court hearing and said he wanted to make arrangements for that.
Palmer High officials were alerted to the criminal case Monday morning. Staff members and former students there are urged to call Anchorage police or the Mat-Su district's human resources department if they have information to share about More, district spokeswoman Catherine Esary said.
Police say anyone with information can call the department at 786-8900 or detective Jade Baker at 786-8530.
Contact Lisa Demer at 257-4390 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Reporter Kyle Hopkins contributed to this story.
By LISA DEMER