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Substitute teacher set for molestation trial

Times Staff Writer

A substitute teacher who has told Ontario police that he molested 100 to 200 female students in Southern California was ordered Monday to stand trial.

But Judge Katrina West dismissed nine of the 11 counts against Eric Norman Olsen, saying there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

At Olsen’s preliminary hearing in Rancho Cucamonga, seven girls ages 6 to 10 from schools in Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario and Fontana took the witness stand; each clutched a plush brown teddy bear as the prosecutor questioned them about their interactions with Olsen, 29, when he served as their substitute teacher last school year.

Authorities began investigating Olsen’s conduct in the summer after several students at Berlyn Elementary School in Ontario told their parents and school officials that Olsen had inappropriately touched female students during classroom activities.

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More than a dozen girls and their parents came forward, and the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office filed 11 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child against Olsen. Deputy Dist. Atty. Jason Anderson said Monday he intends to file more charges.

In a foreshadowing of the difficulty prosecutors may face at trial, many of the girls -- identified as Jane Does -- told Anderson during questioning that they did not remember what had happened on the day Olsen was their teacher.

One child covered her face and began to cry as soon as she was asked to raise her right hand for her swearing in. Without testifying, she left the room with her mother.

Only one child definitively identified Olsen as he sat next to his attorney in a green jumpsuit.

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The most extensive testimony came from Jane Doe No. 8, who was in first grade at Valle Vista Elementary School in Rancho Cucamonga last year when Olsen subbed for her teacher.

“He made us sit on his lap when we needed help with our homework,” the 6-year-old girl said. “I didn’t feel good sitting on his lap.”

One 7-year-old said Olsen had pulled her onto his lap on the floor while she played board games with her classmates; another 7-year-old, from the Fontana school district, said Olsen tickled her feet and carried her around on his back while they were alone in the classroom during recess.

She could not identify Olsen and told Olsen’s attorney, when pressed, that her grandmother had told her Olsen would be wearing green and that she should say Olsen carried her around on his back for five to 10 minutes when they were alone.

Fontana Police Detective Thomas Yarrington said the girl from the Fontana district told him after the incident that Olsen had picked her up by her ankles and carried her around upside down for three minutes with her waist at the level of his head.

The lead investigator on the case, Ontario Police Detective Gary Naranjo, testified that Olsen told him in interviews and written statements in early August that he became sexually aroused when his female students sat on his lap.

“He said he just enjoys the female contact,” Naranjo said. “I think he said it was like sitting on the couch with his girlfriend.”

Naranjo said Olsen also told him that he preferred 6-year-olds and that he should seek therapy.

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San Bernardino County sheriff’s Deputy Brian Swan, who inspected Olsen’s computer, said he did not find any child pornography or erotica on the laptop.

West held Olsen to answer on two of the counts and reduced his bail from $2 million to $1 million. Olsen will next appear in court Nov. 8.

A number of the parents have filed claims against Central School District in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino City Unified School District, the Chino Valley Unified School District and the San Bernardino County superintendent of schools office, alleging that school officials failed to comply with the law by reporting the allegations against Olsen to police or child welfare officials immediately.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com


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