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Willow Elementary Janitor Arrested for Sexual Abuse of a Minor

By Matthew F Smith, Digital Producer, msmith@ktuu.com
Published On: Feb 04 2014 02:43:00 PM AKST
Mat-Su Valley Comes Together to Respond to Sexual Assault
ANCHORAGE -

A 71-year-old janitor at a Mat-Su elementary school has been arrested for sexual abuse of a minor.

Benjamin L. Hammond was arrested Sunday at his Big Lake home, according to Palmer Police Sgt. Shayne LaCroix.

Hammond was a longtime janitor at Willow Elementary. LaCroix said Tuesday that, so far, two victims have come forward and “neither werere students at Willow Elementary.”

According to LaCroix, the first victim recently came forward to police and reported she was sexually abused by Hammond “over a period of time, for approximately 12 years” between 1988 and 2000. LaCroix said investigation revealed a second victim with “enough probable cause to support (the) accusations.”

“Both victims were juveniles when the sexual abuse occurred,” LaCroix said.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District public information officer Catherine Esary said Tuesday that “the allegations don’t involve the school.”

“This is not directly a school charge,” Esary said. “This is a police investigation, not a school investigation, so we’re following (law enforcement’s) directions so far.”

Esary said Hammond had worked at the school “for quite a while,” but a reorganization of non-teacher employees meant his employment records at the school only went back as far as 2009.

Willow Elementary School Principal Andy McDermott referred questions Tuesday to Esary.

“Our goal is still to keep students safe,” Esary added. “Nothing has changed … We believe we have a safe place for kids.”

Court records show Hammond faces one charge of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and two charges of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree.

After his arrest, Hammond was remanded to the Mat-Su Pretrial facility without bail.

LaCroix said when it comes to cases involving the sexual abuse of a minor, perpetrators tend to have other victims.

“Whenever we get a report of someone accused of committing a crime against a minor, we’re always concerned about potential other victims.”

Palmer police are asking anyone with information regarding this case to contact the Office of Children’s Services or the Palmer police at 907.745.4811