816 North

Ex-Kearney teacher charged with sex crimes

Updated: 2013-06-04T13:33:15Z

By GLENN E. RICE

The Kansas City Star

Prosecutors charged a former Kearney junior high school algebra teacher Monday with 10 sex crimes involving a girl who was 14 years old when the instructor allegedly had ongoing sexual contact with her.

The alleged relationship started with flirting between the teacher and the student and escalated into increasingly heavy sexual contact, according to court records. Ultimately, the teacher feared the student might be pregnant, the records contend, and he pressured her to cooperate with a pregnancy test and suggested he might make her take “abortion pills.”

Rhett C. Rigby, 25, of Oak Grove faces four counts of second-degree statutory rape, four counts of statutory sodomy, one count of sexual contact with a student on public school property and one count of victim tampering. The alleged incidents occurred between Oct. 1, 2012, and May 15, 2013, including at the child’s home and in Rigby’s locked classroom.

Rigby posted $100,000 bond Monday night and was released from the Clay County jail.

Prosecutors allege that Rigby and the student exchanged numerous explicit text messages and emails beginning last fall. The two had also sent each other nude photographs of themselves taken with cellphones, according to court records. The girl ultimately told her mother that she and Rigby had sex on multiple occasions after school, the charges contend.

School officials said they learned of the contact on May 13 and confronted Rigby on May 14. He denied having sexual contact with the girl or exchanging photos with her, according to court records.

He said he began receiving emails from the girl around September. Rigby told investigators he did not send photos of himself to students. Rigby also told school officials that he was never alone with a student before or after school and he had never gone to a student’s home.

However, Rigby said he responded to a text message from the victim on May 14.

The following day, school officials searched Rigby’s classroom and found a pregnancy test in his desk drawer. The girl told authorities that Rigby made her provide him with a urine sample and that he then sent her a photo of a negative result from a pregnancy test, ostensibly based on the sample she had provided, according to court records.

The victim said she last spoke with Rigby on the morning of May 14 when he asked her if she was going on a school day trip. During their conversation, according to the court records, Rigby told the victim he had been fired, authorities alleged. He also allegedly told the victim to lie and to tell police and a school principal that she was mad at him.

A witness told police she saw explicit text messages between Rigby and the victim. She had seen his car parked at the victim’s home. The victim later told a friend that if she was pregnant that Rigby would make her take the “abortion pills,” according to court records, “whether she liked it or not.”

School officials said Rigby no longer works for the district.

District officials said they investigated the incident after first learning of the incident from the girl’s mother this spring. They immediately placed Rigby on administrative leave pending the outcome of the school district investigation. District officials also said they promptly reported the matter to police and other authorities.

“The district will continue to cooperate fully with all investigating authorities and communicate with the student and her family,” officials said in a written statement.

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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