Crime & Courts

Charges: Retired Anchorage teacher abused at least 2 minors

Court records filed earlier this month say that retired teacher David Schwantes abused two minors while employed by the Anchorage School District.

The 73-year-old was originally charged with seven felonies, but that criminal complaint has been replaced. Now, Schwantes faces two charges -- second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and second-degree attempted sex abuse of a minor.

Anchorage Police Department Det. John Vandervalk said when Schwantes was arrested that there was "likely" more than one victim.

Vandervalk said Wednesday in a phone interview that two additional alleged victims came forward following an APD and ASD press conference in the wake of the original arrest. But one of them was unwilling to testify in court, he said.

The separate instances of abuse, sparsely detailed in the court record, occurred more than two decades ago. There is no statute of limitations in Alaska law that prohibits prosecution for sexual abuse and similar crimes decades after the fact.

Schwantes worked as a third- and fourth-grade teacher at Mount Spurr Elementary on Elmendorf Air Force Base -- now Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson -- from 1968 to 1993. Between 1993 and 1996, he worked as a substitute teacher in the district. From 1999 to 2000, he was involved in after-school activities at Muldoon Elementary School, police said.

An investigation began in September after one of Schwantes' former students, who is now an adult, reported to police that Schwantes sexually abused him.

The man told police that he met Schwantes at Mount Spurr during the 1988-89 school year -- the same year Schwantes was named Anchorage teacher of the year.

Schwantes befriended the boy and molested him during the 1990s at school and elsewhere, according to the account to police.

The charges allege the two victims were abused between 1988 to 1989 and 1990 to 1995. They say Schwantes inappropriately touched the children over their clothing.

Assistant District Attorney Jonas Walker acknowledged the ambiguity regarding the dates of the abuse in a proposed plea agreement. He said the dates address changes in sentencing laws over the past two decades.

The agreement calls for the former elementary school teacher to plead guilty to the two charges. The second-degree sexual abuse of a minor charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Walker pointed out that Schwantes hasn't pleaded guilty.

"The defendant is presumed innocent; he's not convicted," the prosecutor said. "The state still bears the burden of proof."

The police department's investigation is continuing despite the proposed plea agreement and a combination change of plea and sentencing hearing set for May.

"I recently went data mining through old ASD records that aren't stored in a computer," Vandervalk said. "I've got some names that we're going to be looking at."

And the prosecution wrote that the plea deal doesn't resolve any other potential offenses outside of the filed charges. It also doesn't mean Schwantes avoids pending civil court action -- Shwantes and ASD are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in August by an unnamed plaintiff.

Schwantes paid a $10,000 cash bail and is out of custody.