A substitute teacher at Valencia High School has been arrested and charged with criminal sexual contact of a minor and false imprisonment.
Lawrence Larson, 50, of Meadow Lake, was arrested and charged on Friday, Feb. 14, after allegedly touching a 16-year-old female VHS student between her legs.
He was in custody at the Valencia County Detention Center until Tuesday, Feb. 18, when he was released on his own recognizance by Los Lunas Magistrate John “Buddy” Sanchez on the recommendation of the assistant district attorney at the conditions of release hearing.
While out, Larson is not to have any contact with the victim, is not allowed to enter any school properties and must report to pre-trial services for supervision.
According to the New Mexico State Police affidavit for his arrest, the student disclosed to officers that Larson touched her twice between her legs while they were in a classroom at the high school on Thursday, Feb. 13.
She told the investigating officer she felt uncomfortable and went to the weight room, which was connected to the classroom. Larson followed her and pushed her to the ground, where he grabbed her breast and held her down, the affidavit says.
The student told officers she managed to get up and tried to leave, but Larson allegedly grabbed her from behind and held her back, saying, “I won’t touch your breast because I know you’ll slap me.”
As she left the weight room, Larson also allegedly slapped her buttocks.
“(She) was asked if she felt as if Larson was holding her back, preventing her from leaving … to which she said yes,” NMSP officer Lawrence Guzzardo wrote in the affidavit.
Officers also interviewed Larson, who, according to the affidavit, confessed to touching the breast area of the girl with a closed hand, and her hip and thigh area with his knee and elbow.
In a written statement, Los Lunas Schools Superintendent Dana Sanders said the district was made aware of the incident on Thursday, Feb. 13.
The statement from Sanders said Larson was a substitute teacher and volunteer assistant coach for the Valencia Middle School seventh grade girls basketball team at the time of his arrest.
“An immediate investigation was initiated by the district,” Sanders wrote. “At the point in the investigation that it was clear that the allegations were that of inappropriate touching, the New Mexico State Police were immediately contacted. The investigation was then turned over to them. The individual is no longer employed by the district.”
Larson worked for Los Lunas Schools from 2010 to 2011, and was rehired in September 2015 through this year, when he was fired.
Although the assistant district attorney at Tuesday’s hearing said Larson does not have a criminal history, he has been accused of sexual assault in the past.
A civil lawsuit filed in federal court by Daveri Pacheco in 2008 alleges she was assaulted by Larson while she was an inmate at the Valencia County Detention Center and Larson was a guard.
The lawsuit alleges Larson coerced, intimidated and threatened her into having sexual relations with him at least six times between Aug. 11 and Sept. 11, 2007.
Larson was a guard at the jail from January 2005 to September 2007, when he left the job voluntarily. In the response to Pacheco’s lawsuit, Larson denied all allegations.
The Albuquerque attorney who represented Pacheco, David Plotsky, said the case ended with a cash settlement from Valencia County, but was unable to remember the dollar amount.
According to the settlement agreement provided by the county, Pacheco settled with the county for $25,000 for her “pain and suffering.”
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.