Mark Berndt, a 61-year-old ex-schoolteacher from Los Angeles, was charged with 23 counts of child molestation after photographs surfaced showing victims with their eyes blindfolded, possibly inside a classroom. Berndt was arrested at his home in Los Angeles on Monday after a year-long probe.
Mark Berndt was a school teacher at Miramonte Elementary School for more than 30 years, but was fired after the investigation began in January 2011. A film processor noticed the images and turned them into authorities. Under California law, film processors must report any suspected child abuse.
The images, according to MSNBC, depict children with their eyes blindfolded and duct tape over their mouths. Some show children with Berndt's hand over their mouths. Other photos show children with large, live Madagascar-type cockroaches on their faces and mouths, and some show girls with what appears to be a blue plastic spoon filled with an unknown substance. Detectives recovered a blue spoon and a container from the trash in Berndt's class room. Authorities said the items tested positive for semen, and Berndt's DNA matched that on the spoon and container.
I am sickened and horrified by the behavior of Mark Berndt, said Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy in a statement. This individual and his conduct do not reflect on the quality of the teachers who work so hard on behalf of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The victims are 23 boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 10 between 2008 and 2010. A search warrant executed on Berndt's home found more photographs, and investigators are still working to identify 10 of the child victims in the 390 photos uncovered.
Crisis counseling and support have been provided for more than a year to the known victims and their families, and we continue to offer those necessary services to new victims as they are identified or any student or parents who requests assistance, Deasy said.
Authorities are recommending the children be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, the Associated Press reported. Berndt is currently being held on $3.2 million bail.