Former DOD Elementary Teacher Sentenced To Life In Prison For Sexually Abusing Children As Young As 6

A 56-year-old elementary school teacher formerly employed by the Department of Defense Education Activity will spend the rest of his life behind bars for sexually abusing four students between 6 and 8 years old.

From 2001 to 2021, Stefan Zappey taught first through third grade at Patch Elementary, a school on a U.S. military base near Stuggart, Germany. Zappey was convicted by a federal jury in January of four counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and four counts of abusive sexual contact, according to the Department of Justice. He was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday. 

“Zappey’s offenses are especially egregious because he was entrusted with teaching the children of our brave service members overseas,” said Kenneth Polite Jr., the assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Criminal Division. “The courage of the victims and the perseverance of investigators and prosecutors ensured that Zappey’s offenses were exposed and will prevent him from abusing even more children.”

One of Zappey’s former students came forward in 2020, telling Army criminal investigators that the former elementary school teacher touched her under her clothing while she was attending the school from 2009 to 2010. She also said Zappey called her to his desk during class and repeatedly fondled her. The victim, who was 8 years old at the time of the abuse, said she didn’t report Zappey’s crimes right away because she “didn’t know it was wrong,” according to court documents. 

After launching an investigation, officials found that Zappey sexually abused at least four of his students by touching them on multiple occasions and placing his hands inside their underwear to touch their genitals. 

Other students and even some faculty members said they saw Zappey hug students multiple times and had them sit on his lap, touching their backs and stomachs under their clothes, the DOJ press release said. One faculty member said Zappey “would train students to become ‘touchy-feely,’” according to court documents. 

The FBI joined the Army Criminal Investigation Division in investigating the case. The case was a part of Project Safe Childhood, a DOJ initiative combatting child sexual exploitation. 


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