CAHOKIA, Ill. (KMOX) – A Cahokia High School special-needs teacher’s aide and assistant track coach is behind bars, accused of sexually molesting a student while knowingly carrying HIV.
Mario Hunt, 35, faces three felony charges: criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and sexual transmission of HIV. The transmission charge means a defendant merely exposed a victim to the virus that causes AIDS, not necessarily causing actual infection.
He is being held in the St. Clair County Jail on $300,000 bond.
The acts in question allegedly took place between January and May of 2011 at Cahokia High School but only recently became known to police, according to a Belleville News-Democrat report.
“We were approached a week and a half ago by a student and his mother and asked to investigate the conduct between the suspect and several young boys. We conducted an investigation and turned the case in for review at the state’s attorney’s office on Friday. Our suspect was charged today,” Cahokia Police Chief James Jones told the News-Democrat Monday.
At least one other possible victim has come forward, though that case has not yet produced charges, Cahokia police Lt. Dennis Plew told the Associated Press.
“This is horrible, I’m sure some kids come to school and put a lot of trust in a teacher, and for anyone to take advantage of that is a terrible thing,” said Plew.
Cahokia Superintendent Art Ryan said Hunt frequently helped with prom and homecoming events and that “all of the kids certainly seemed to like him.”
“You always think something like this isn’t going to happen here and we’d be able to see something, but it’s just so tough to know,” Ryan said. “Realistically, what can you do?
“It’s hard to tell what’s going on in people’s hearts and minds.”
Hunt served as the high school’s boy’s assistant track coach and athletic trainer. He will remain on the district’s payroll, pending a June 10 meeting where the school board will consider his employment status.
Hunt worked for the 4,000-student school system since 2007.
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