Relaymedia

Walden West Science Camp's Employee 'Papa Bear' Charged with Child Porn and Molestation

( [email protected] ) May 13, 2015 08:57 PM EDT

(Photo :Edgar Covarrubias-Padilla)

Former Walden West employee Edgar Covarrubias-Padilla, 27, is suspected to have sexually abused more children. On May 7, authorities arrested the male suspect on suspicions of children porn distribution, and molesting a 10-year-old child. Afterwards, the Santa Clara Superior Court charged him with four felonies on Monday. Covarrubias-Padilla may spend a maximum of 10 years and four months in prison, if convicted. He is currently being held in lieu of $125,000 bail, and will have his bail hearing on May 20.

Affectionately dubbed "Papa Bear" by the children at the campsite, Covarrubias had served as night monitor at Walden West. His responsibilities included counseling homesick children, and mediating on disputes between campers and cabin leaders.

"I am so livid," Amanda Barrett said to the San Jose Mercury. "He [Covarrubias-Padilla] was your comfort, your safe place.

Barrett's daughter had previously attended Walden West in January. Children routinely stay overnight at the school's sprawling facility in the Redwood Forests. For over 60 years, the camp has hosted outdoor science education for fifth and sixth grade students. Covarrubias-Padilla worked at both the Saratoga and Cupertino branch of Walden West. Prior to his employment, he had undergone a standard background screening.

Investigators began building a case against Covarrubias-Padilla after they caught him in a random sweep for illicit content on the internet. The suspect unknowingly emailed child pornography to an officer participating in the operation. Afterwards, Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies served an arrest warrant to Covarrubias-Padilla. No less than 600 child pornography images were recovered from his confiscated laptop.

Following the arrest, officials at several school districts began reaching out to parents to find out if Covarrubias-Padilla had harmed children. One unnamed parent came forward after her son reported being physically touched by the alleged perpetrator. The boy was interviewed by investigators, who later added an extra charge of child molestation.

On Monday, May 11, Walden West's director Anita Parsons was placed on indefinite leave of absence amidst accusations that she given out false information regarding Covarrubias-Padilla's job. Concerned parents were initially told that the accused did not require contact with children. This information was later proven to be false when parents and employees recalled that Covarrubias-Padilla often talked with children - sometimes alone.

Superintendant Jon Gundry alleged on Monday that the misinformation originated with Parsons. In the meanwhile, the Santa Clara County Office of Education has not given an official reason for Parson's departure.

While speaking outside of court on Monday, Prosecutor David Shabaglian urged anyone with information about Covarrubias-Padilla to call investigators at 408-808-4300.