Teacher allegedly had sex with teen student

January 8, 2008 7:55:52 AM PST
In October, a Pittsburgh-area high school teacher asked one of her students for a 14-year-old boy's phone number, police said.

Over the next three months, the 26-year-old sent the teenager nude pictures and salacious text messages, and ultimately confessed to having sex with him in her car in the school parking lot, authorities said.

On Monday, Beth Ann Chester, a health and physical education teacher at Moon Area High School, was in jail facing several sex abuse charges. Police say they will be adding several more charges, including at least one felony, in the next few days.

"She confessed to having full sexual intercourse with this child in her vehicle in the school parking lot," Moon Township Police Chief Leo McCarthy said.

The boy told police he had fallen in love with the married teacher, according to court papers. He denied having physical contact with Chester, except for a hug on the last day of school before winter break, police said. McCarthy said the boy likely denied having sex with Chester because of his feelings for her.

"She admitted to us quite graphically what happened," McCarthy said. "Perhaps he wanted to protect her. We're dealing with a 14-year-old. This is typical of someone who's a victim. He's in love with this person and she's in jail now and losing her job."

Investigators gave the following account in court papers and interviews:

The boy and Chester began exchanging text messages in October. That's when Chester, who also coached girls' volleyball, got the boy's phone number from a member of her team and sent him a text message about the result of a freshman football game.

The text messages went on, until the two found ways to spend extra time with each other at school, including having Chester issue late excuses and hall passes to the boy.

On Dec. 22, Chester sent three pictures of herself naked in the shower to the boy's cell phone. The student replied with a naked picture of himself. The teacher then sent a message: "Damn, baby, you're sexy as hell," adding a comment about his anatomy.

The boy's parents discovered the suggestive text messages on Dec. 26. They arranged to meet with Chester at a mall coffee shop later that day. The boy's parents told the teacher they would not seek criminal charges if she resigned.

Chester tendered her resignation the next day, citing "personal reasons."

High school principal Michael Hauser found the resignation letter on his desk Dec. 28. He met with Chester to confirm her intentions and spoke to her again on New Year's Day, at which time she reiterated her intent to resign for personal reasons.

On Wednesday, another teacher told Hauser that the real reason Chester resigned was due to some text messages she had sent to a freshman. School district officials notified police on Thursday that Chester may have had inappropriate contact with the student, and Chester was arrested on Friday.

Chester remained in the Allegheny County Jail unable to post $50,000 bond on Monday.

The staff of Coraopolis District Judge Mary Murray said they had no record of an attorney for her. McCarthy said she waived her right to an attorney and spoke to investigators without a lawyer present.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, but the judge's staff and police said they expected it to be postponed.

Nobody answered the door at Chester's apartment in a townhouse-style complex in Scott Township.

Chester's husband, a coach at Penn State's McKeesport campus, did not immediately return a phone call to his office or an e-mail to his university address.

The Moon Area School Board must still vote on whether to accept Chester's resignation Tuesday. Until then, she remains on the district payroll.

School district solicitor Jack Cambest said he would recommend that Chester be suspended without pay, but he said the board might not be able to act on the case until Chester is ordered to stand trial.

Chester was in her third year with the district, Cambest said. School administrators and staff met Monday to discuss the case, and employees were told that the other teacher did the right thing by reporting the text messages to Hauser. Two assemblies were also held to discuss the matter with students, Cambest said. Cambest and police could not say whether the boy was in the teacher's class or met her some other way.