Former Grain Valley elementary teacher admits molesting students

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - A former Grain Valley elementary teacher on Wednesday pleaded guilty to charges that he molested 11 of his male students.

Matthew J. Nelson, a former teacher at Prairie Branch Elementary School, entered the plea in Jackson County court to several counts of child molestation and statutory sodomy and one count attempted child molestation.

Nelson, who taught second- and third-graders in Grain Valley for a decade, was charged in 2012 after students told authorities he fondled them when they came to his desk asking for help with assignments and during quiet reading and movie times.

He also was accused of fondling a student during trip to a Kansas City Royals baseball game during the 2009-10 school year, according to a probable cause statement. In that instance, a chaperone said she saw Nelson rubbing the inner thigh of one child and "acting as if he was on a date," apparently unconcerned that someone saw him rubbing the boy's leg, according to the probable cause statement.

Nelson appeared despondent during the 45-minute plea hearing Wednesday, wiping away tears, looking downward and offering brief one-word answers as his lawyer and the judge questioned him about the plea. Several family members of the victims also cried quietly in the crowded courtroom.

J.R. Hobbs, Nelson's attorney, said in a statement that Nelson "is remorseful for his unlawful and improper acts of touching and fondling certain students."

"He regrets the effect his actions have had on the students and their families," Hobbs said.

The prosecutor's office declined comment about the plea agreement, which calls for Nelson to be sentenced to 15 years in prison. Formal sentencing is scheduled for April 25.

Nelson, who is free on $250,000 bond, pulled a dark jacket hood over his head and declined comment as he left the courthouse.

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