A 19-year-old Tates Creek High School custodian remains behind bars Monday after being arrested on a charge of first-degree rape of a student.
Jeremiah Daniel Owens has been accused of raping a 14-year-old female student at Tates Creek. He pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Monday and is being held in the Fayette County Detention Center on a $50,000 full-cash bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 16.
The rape allegedly happened shortly after school let out on Sept. 27 on campus at Tates Creek High, said Jim Searle, director of law enforcement for the school district. The girl was on campus for an extracurricular activity, he said.
Owens began working at Tates Creek around Sept. 15 of this year, said Fayette County Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman.
Like all school district employees, Owens was subjected to a background check before he was hired, Silberman said.
Searle said law enforcement and school officials received an allegation about the incident three to four weeks ago. Owens was immediately suspended from work with pay while a criminal investigation was completed. The district pushed to have charges filed against Owens, Searle said.
According to court records, the girl agreed to follow Owens into a boiler room at school. He asked her whether she wanted to have sex and she said no. He then held her down and had sex with her, according to the records.
A warrant for Owens' arrest was issued Friday and the teenager was taken into custody, Searle said. First-degree rape is a Class B felony that carries a possible penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison.
This allegation of rape is the first since the 2002-03 school year when there were two complaints of rape, Searle said. After investigating those allegations, Searle said, officers found no further action was warranted.
"This is an isolated incident as far as we are aware of at this point in time," Searle said. "Obviously on campus, just as it is out in the community, there's no 100 percent guarantees. But the first goal of school administrators and school law enforcement officials is safety for students, staff and visitors on campus."
Searle said school and law enforcement leaders will examine the incident to see whether anything could have prevented the situation and consider ways to tighten up security measures at the school.
Because officials did not want to identify the victim, it is unclear whether she is still a student at Tates Creek.
Owens remains suspended with pay from the school district.
"We will be taking additional steps now that the investigation is completed on our end," Silberman said. "The allegations are extremely serious. ... We'll be taking very, very strong action on this to ensure that this is not something that happens in the school district."
Silberman praised law enforcement and school leaders for aggressively investigating the complaint and pursuing criminal charges against Owens.
Tates Creek principal Sam Meaux thanked students, parents and community members for their response to the difficult situation. A letter was sent home to parents about the incident.
"I've been impressed with our students," he said. "And I'm grateful for the support we've received from parents and other community members because they know the strides we have made to try to insure safety."