Sex abuse arrest made

Carroll substitute accused of improper contact with students

Eight boys ages 15-17

Woman also accused of providing alcohol

May 20, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

A substitute teacher at Carroll County's Francis Scott Key High School was arrested early yesterday and charged with having inappropriate sexual contact with eight male teen-agers she met at the school.

Kimberly L. Merson, 24, of Union Bridge was taken into custody at 2 a.m. yesterday at the Catonsville home of a relative and held at the Carroll County Detention Center on $250,000 bail.

According to the criminal complaint, Merson acknowledged to police providing alcohol to the students, inviting them to her home and "acting out her fantasy of stripping and dancing for males." She also acknowledged having sexual intercourse, performing oral sex on and fondling the boys, who were ages 15 to 17, court records show.

Police said the sexual abuse occurred in the winter at her home in the 100 block of N. Main St. in Union Bridge and in the residence of two of the victims, as well as in Merson's car and the vehicle of one victim.

"This is something that absolutely concerns any principal of any building," said Randy Clark, principal of Francis Scott Key High, which is outside Union Bridge.

"This situation certainly is very unique, so we're not sure what to expect," he said, "but we do have concerns that there could be an impact to students and we will put provisions in place to have any supports in place that our students need."

Clark and Cynthia Little, the school system's director of pupil services, said that will likely include additional counselors for students and extra staff to answer calls from concerned parents.

Merson was a long-term substitute at Francis Scott Key, one of the temporary employees the school system hires when a teacher takes maternity leave or some other prolonged absence.

School officials could not say what she taught at the school or how long she had worked there. Clark said it was a personnel issue that he could not discuss. Little said she did not know the specifics of Merson's employment, adding that school officials and police will hold a news conference at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

The issue caught authorities' attention late Friday afternoon when one student related his accusations to a school administrator, said Lt. Terry L. Katz, commander of the Maryland State Police's Westminster barracks.

An administrator confronted Merson, who acknowledged drinking alcohol with the boys and having sexual contact with one or more male students at their residence, according to court documents.

During police interviews with five male students at the Westminster barracks, the boys told investigators that they had engaged in sexual intercourse, oral sex and fondling with Merson, according to the criminal complaint.

Police recovered four photographs from one boy, who acknowledged taking pictures in Merson's bedroom that depict her in a sexually explicit pose, documents say.

Investigators also recovered an unsigned letter to the boy requesting the return of the photographs. "It's all my fault," the letter reads, according to court documents. "I know I need to stop worrying and acting like that part never happened. I hope you respect me enough to do this."

Investigators said the sexual abuse occurred with eight of the nine known victims and that alcohol was provided to six of them. The molestation was initiated, police said, through conversation at the high school.

Katz said investigators are concerned that there might be additional victims.

"The reason we took the very aggressive stance we did in investigating this as quickly as possible was to identify any new victims besides the people we already knew about," he said, adding that more could step forward as people learn of the case.

Merson did not have a lawyer at her preliminary hearing before a Carroll County District Court commissioner yesterday afternoon. A telephone message left yesterday at the home of Merson, who is married, was not returned.

Merson is charged with 15 counts of child sexual abuse, five counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and one count each of third-degree sexual offense, perverted practice and distribution of obscene material.

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