La Mesa

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The former principal of a church school in La Mesa was sentenced Thursday to two years in County Jail for molesting two female students.

Eugene Lee Petersen, 37, of La Mesa was arrested immediately after the sentencing.

San Diego Municipal Judge Jesus Rodriguez placed Petersen on 10 years’ probation, ordered him to register with the police as a sex offender and forbade him from having any contacts with minors except in the presence of a responsible adult who knows of his convictions.

The judge further ordered Petersen, who also taught seventh- and eighth-graders at St. Luke’s Lutheran Day School, never to teach again, and fined him $1,000. Petersen is also prohibited from frequenting places where minors congregate, but he is allowed to visit with his son.


“I realize what I did was a terrible, terrible act,” Petersen told Rodriguez. “It’s very painful to see a dark side of your life.”

On Nov. 14, Petersen pleaded guilty to three counts of child molestation. Nine other counts were dropped. Under terms of the plea bargain, Petersen could have faced a maximum sentence of three years in custody and a $3,000 fine.

The former pastor of the church, Gottfriend Hoffman, 65, of La Mesa has been charged with one misdemeanor count of failing to inform authorities about the molestations after he allegedly learned of them. Hoffman also faces a felony charged of being an accessory to the molestation after the fact.

Hoffman’s preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 18. He has pleaded innocent to both charges.