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Crime & Courts

Bethel elementary principal fondled former student and tried to send sexual messages to 13-year-old girl, charges say

  • Author: Tess Williams
  • Updated: December 12, 2019
  • Published December 12, 2019

An elementary school principal in Bethel arrested Tuesday sent explicit sexual messages to a girl he believed to be 13 years old and had an ongoing sexual relationship with a former elementary school student, according to federal charges filed against him.

Christopher Carmichael, 55, also “admitted to having a sexual attraction to children,” the charges said. Carmichael had been with the Lower Kuskokwim School District for 19 years.

Bethel police were informed in June that Carmichael, principal of Gladys Jung Elementary School, had inappropriately touched a former student on many occasions after she graduated from the elementary school, the charges said.

The elementary school has about 330 students in third through sixth grade, according to superintendent Dan Walker.

The young girl told investigators Carmichael fondled her over and under her clothing in the janitor closets, gym closet and Carmichael’s office in the elementary school later in the afternoon “after the teachers and staff had gone home.” According to charges, “Carmichael told her they needed to stay outside of the camera view so no one would think he was doing anything crazy.”

Christopher Carmichael (Photo via Gladys Jung Elementary School website)

In a recorded phone call, Carmichael told the girl a complaint was previously filed against him by another student’s parents after “an incident where he brushed up against the chest of a girl standing in the doorway at school,” charges said.

Throughout the Bethel police investigation, an officer used the victim’s Facebook account to talk to Carmichael, who would allude to their physical encounters in their conversations.

The undercover investigator, posing as the victim, told Carmichael her 13-year-old cousin was having trouble with her family in Anchorage, charges said. In November, Carmichael texted the cousin, who was actually an undercover FBI agent. The iMessage string automatically connected to Carmichael’s school email address, charges said.

After texting for a day, Carmichael began to ask the cousin sexual questions, charges said. He reminded her to delete the messages and said “it was really important they keep referring to her like she was eighteen so that he wouldn’t get into trouble,” according to the charges.

He told the cousin that he wanted to meet her while traveling to Anchorage in early December, describing sexual acts he wanted to engage in with her, but charges said he was unable to see her because he was with family.

Carmichael sent detailed, sexually explicit texts to the 13-year-old cousin and said during a recorded phone call, “I love you exactly how you are and exactly how old you are," according to charges. He asked both girls to call him “daddy," charges said.

Investigators searched Carmichael’s home and school office Tuesday. He was arrested that night by the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force, Bethel Police Department and Alaska State Troopers, according to an FBI spokesman.

During an interview with FBI agents, he said he was especially attracted to “children who are beginning puberty and pubescent," according to charges. He also told investigators he initiated the relationship and sexual communication with the two girls and knew that he was communicating with minors.

Carmichael is facing charges of attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor, and attempted coercion and enticement of a minor.

Superintendent Walker said Wednesday that staff were shocked by Carmichael’s arrest. Walker was not available for comment Thursday.

Carmichael joined the district in 2000 as a teacher in Quinhagak, Walker said. He was a principal in Goodnews Bay before becoming the Gladys Jung Elementary School principal in 2014.

The district said Wednesday that they planned to investigate Carmichael, and additional social workers and school counselors would be available as needed. The district’s lead social worker is available at 907-543-4874 or 907-545-4429, according to a statement released Thursday afternoon.

District Personnel Director Joshua Gill was appointed as acting president of the elementary school for the remaining week and a half of the semester, the statement said.

“Over the next week, Acting Principal Joshua Gill will be reaching out to parents to connect with them about any concerns they may have about their child’s education at GJES and answer any questions they may have about safety and security at the school,” the statement said.

If convicted, prosecutors said, Carmichael could spend 10 years to life in prison.

Prosecutors urged anyone with information about the case to call the FBI at 907-276-4441.

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