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Cops: Antioch teacher admits to sexually abusing kids
By Vincent Pierri | Daily Herald Staff

Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, left, holds a mug shot of Kenneth Lee Johnson. Antioch School District 34 superintendent Scott Thompson is at right.

 

Vincent Pierri | Staff Photographer

Kenneth Lee Johnson

 

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Published: 1/26/2009 8:44 AM | Updated: 1/26/200 5:58 PM

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A veteran teacher from Antioch Upper Grade School who police say has admitted sexually abusing boys over 35 years is in Lake County jail on $500,000 bond after being charged with 10 counts of possession of child pornography.

Kenneth Lee Johnson, 60, of Wauconda was arrested by Lake County sheriff's deputies Jan. 20 after receiving a tip from the FBI earlier this month.

Johnson cooperated with police and admitted to having the images, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said during a Monday morning news conference.

More than 1,000 pictures and nearly 100 video clips of child pornography were discovered in Johnson's Wauconda apartment on the 400 block of North Main Street. All the children in the pictures were boys who ranged in age from infants to 15-year-olds, Curran said. The images were on his computer and in printed material.

Johnson, who has been teaching social studies at the grade school since 1989, told detectives he has sexually abused boys for the last 35 years and that many of the victims were in his Wauconda neighborhood and within the Antioch area, Curran said.

Johnson has no criminal history. If convicted, he faces no less than two years and no more than five years in prison for each count of child pornography possession. Johnson has a Jan. 28 court date.

Investigators have spoken to some of the people Johnson identified as his victims, but none has substantiated the abuse, a development Curran called "perplexing."

"We are trying to distinguish what is reality and what is fantasy," Curran said.

Johnson claimed to have abused at least 75 boys in Lake County and in Washington state, where he lived before moving to Wauconda, police said.

Curran said people he has interviewed who know Johnson described him as an "oddball and a freak, but they couldn't put more on it," he said.

District 34 Superintendent Scott Thompson said Johnson has never been disciplined for anything during his time at the grade school. He has been placed on paid leave until school administrators complete an internal investigation, Thompson said. The school will also have social workers available for students and staff.

"There were no warning signs," Thompson said. "Right now, we have no inclinations that there are any victims in our school district. This was a shock." he said.

In light of this case, Curran called for mandatory psychiatric evaluations in addition to criminal background checks for those applying for teaching positions.

"As a father of three it is alarming, it is disturbing and it absolutely puts a pit in my stomach," Curran said.