A Grain Valley teacher and coach has been charged with child molestation and sodomy of four boys at an elementary school, according to Jackson County prosecutors.
Authorities are concerned that more victims may exist and have asked parents to come forward.
Matthew J. Nelson, 33, faces one count of first-degree child molestation and three counts of first-degree statutory sodomy. He has taught several years at Prairie Branch Elementary School in the Grain Valley School District.
The ages of the four victims range from 7 to 9 years old.
The alleged offenses occurred at the elementary school, said Aaron Ambrose, Grain valley police chief.
The reported incidents allegedly started on Aug. 1, 2010, and continued as recently as Jan. 6, according to court records.
According to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, parents of the victims notified the Grain Valley Police Department this month that their sons had reported inappropriate touching by Nelson in his classroom. The boys reported Nelson touched their private areas through clothing or directly to skin during classroom hours, including during movie times and reading periods, according to court records.
Nelson was transported from the Grain Valley Police Department this afternoon to appear at the Jackson County Courthouse Annex in Independence this afternoon.
“We think there may be other potential victims out there,” said Ambrose. “If there are, we encourage them to come forward, either to the Grain Valley police, the sheriff’s office or the school district.”
Nelson, Ambrose added, “has been a teacher for a little more than 10 years, so there is a good chance there could be other victims.”
Last week Grain Valley School District officials placed Nelson on administrative leave.
Nelson has taught at Prairie Branch Elementary for several years. He also is a soccer coach; the current roster of the Missouri State High School Soccer Coaches Association lists Nelson as coach of Grain Valley girls’ and boys’ teams.
“Kind of like everybody else, I am just at a loss for words," said Susanna Kay Eubank, who several years ago was engaged to Nelson.
“We were friends for two years, and then we were together for four to four-and-a-half years,” Eubank said. The marriage, however, did not occur.
“I would like to say that Matt is a very down-to-earth person, very caring, and would do anything for anybody,” she said.
According to court records:
Students described Nelson as allegedly touching them, sometimes on their backs or stomachs, with his hand underneath their clothes. One student described Nelson as “huggy” and sometimes made students “lean into him” when he hugged them.
Some parents told investigators that they found it unusual that Nelson appeared to maintain interest in their children after school hours, showing up at their basketball or football games. In one case Nelson, who had been in charge of a student food drive, asked the parents of one child if he could accompany him as he dropped off the food at a food pantry.