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Antioch teacher charged with sex assault
By Lee Filas and Tony Gordon | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/4/2009 3:48 PM | Updated: 9/4/2009 8:57 PM

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A 52-year-old teacher at Antioch Upper Grade School was charged Friday with two counts of criminal sexual assault after having an "inappropriate relationship" with a former female student, police said.

It was a convicted former teacher from Antioch Grade School who provided information that helped investigators charge Wes Owens, 52, of Solon Mills in the case, officials said.

Owens is held in Lake County jail on $100,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday, authorities said. If found guilty of the two felonies, Owens could face up to 15 years in prison, officials said.

Antioch Elementary District 34 placed Owens on paid administrative leave Aug. 31, pending the outcome of the investigation, authorities said.

District 34 board President Joni Kalstrup said administrators relayed information about Owens to staff members Friday. She said automated telephone messages will go to residents alerting them to a special District 34 e-mail regarding Owens.

"I guess the reaction of the board is obviously utter dismay," Kalstrup said. "I guess we're glad it's finally coming forward after all these years."

Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Mary Stanton said investigators from the Lake County sheriff's office were contacted last week by a Wheaton police detective, who received a tip Owens and the victim had a relationship in 1997, when the girl was 15.

Stanton said Lake County sheriff investigators drove downstate to interview Kenneth Lee Johnson, 60, a former social studies teacher at Antioch Grade School serving 31/2 years in state prison on child pornography charges.

Johnson told investigators what he knew about the relationship between Owens and the former student, Stanton said.

Police contacted the victim, who now lives in Massachusetts, and she admitted the relationship had taken place, Stanton said.

Sheriff investigators flew the victim to Lake County to take her sworn statement, then arrested and charged Owens in the case.

"The cooperation of Antioch school officials (in particular Superintendent Scott Thompson), law enforcement and the state's attorney's office has been essential to the successful conclusion of this investigation," Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said.

Johnson, who taught at Antioch Grade School for 20 years, was arrested by Lake County sheriff's detectives in January after investigators found more than 1,000 pictures and nearly 100 video clips of children engaged in sex acts.

After Johnson's arrest was made public, school district and law enforcement officials hosted an open forum for nearly 200 parents seeking answers.

Kalstrup said she expects a similar forum will be hosted within the next two weeks regarding Owens.

District 34 conducts criminal background checks on new employees. Kalstrup said officials may discuss the merits of performing periodic criminal checks on staffers.

• Daily Herald staff writers Russell Lissau and Bob Susnjara contributed to this report.

Charge: Man faces 15 years in prison if convicted