CLEARFIELD – A jury of seven women and five men deliberated for 48 minutes Tuesday before finding a student aide guilty of inappropriately touching a teenage girl when she was a student of the Clearfield County Career & Technology Center.
Edna M. Spencer, 60, of Clearfield was found guilty on the charges of indecent assault and corruption of minors, both misdemeanors. The jury entered into its deliberations at 3:34 p.m. and returned its verdict at 4:22 p.m.
District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. prosecuted the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Spencer was represented by defense attorneys Christopher E. Mohney and Beau Grove. The Honorable Judge Paul E. Cherry presided over the case.
During its deliberations, the jury reconvened in court with one question at 4:11 p.m. It asked Cherry to repeat the third element of corruption of minors; and Cherry read all three elements in their entirety.
The charges stem from an incident March 15, 2018 in the girl’s culinary arts locker room at the CCCTC, according to trial testimony given Monday by the teenage victim who was a 17-year-old student at the time.
She said she arrived at the school around 8 a.m., and proceeded to the locker room to change into her uniform for class. A classmate was already inside.
While changing her clothes, she said Spencer entered to use the restroom. Afterwards, she testified that Spencer touched her sides while she was partially nude and made a sexual comment.
This, the victim said, was witnessed by her then 15-year-old classmate, and after Spencer left, she said her then 16-year-old classmate came in.
After the trio discussed what happened in the locker room, she said they decided to go to the Student Services office together to notify their guidance counselor.
She said they were referred to Fred Redden, current executive director, who was the principal at the time. They spoke with him and later gave him written statements, then again to police March 29, 2018.
The victim testified Spencer made her feel uncomfortable, calling the locker room incident “creepy.” She said she didn’t want this type of contact with Spencer, and she didn’t consent to it.
All three former CCCTC students testified that Spencer started her inappropriate behavior towards the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.
They said Spencer – at first – watched them change into their uniforms, called them “sexy” and touched their back and buttocks areas while they were cooking.
Over several months, they said it escalated to the locker room incident, which is what made them all uncomfortable enough to report it to the school’s administration.
Redden testified Monday that in an interview with him March 15, 2018, Spencer admitted she brushed the victim’s sides earlier that morning in the locker room and that she also commented about her “sexy” curves.
Redden also said that Spencer wasn’t an employee of the CCCTC, but instead was a student aide employed by a sending school district. He said Spencer was escorted out of the building by her supervisor that day.
When testimony from arresting Officer Zachary S. Cowan continued Tuesday, he said he interviewed Spencer for more than a half-hour April 2, 2018. He also asked her to give a written statement, which she did.
In her statement, he said Spencer admitted she noticed the victim’s “small waistline” while she was in the locker room. She told him that she touched it and commented, “hey look, [the student] is sexy.”
Spencer also said she neither intended to offend the girl, nor to cause her any harm. She said in her “culture,” the term “sexy” is a compliment, her comment was out of “motherly admiration” and if she’d known it was wrong here, she wouldn’t have done it.
Shaw played back segments of Cowan’s interview in which Spencer referenced the victim’s waistline. He said she initially demonstrated how she touched the victim with just her fingertips. However, at the end, he said Spencer gestured with her whole hand.
In closing, Shaw said Spencer’s attorneys wanted to claim she didn’t know her behavior was inappropriate because she had a different cultural background.
He said she’s been living here for 25 years and worked in the school for many years, as well. He said regardless of “where you’re from, you don’t touch kids.”
The victim will have a “skewed” sense of morality for the rest of her life, because “she went to school to go to culinary class, and got assaulted,” Shaw argued.