A Lee’s Summit man who is a band teacher in the Independence School District is out of jail on bond after being charged in connection with an alleged inappropriate relationship with a 14-year old female student.
According to Mike Mansur, public information officer for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, James N. Owens, 27, is free after posting on a $75,000 secured bond Nov. 27. Owens, who lives in the 700 block of N.E. Deerbrook St. in Lee’s Summit, was charged the same day with one count each of enticement of a child and second degree child molestation.
The enticement of a child charge is a felony, and the second-degree child molestation charge is a misdemeanor.
Owens’ next court appearance will be at 11 a.m. Dec. 11 in Division 33 of the Jackson County Courthouse in Independence.
According to a probable cause statement, the alleged sexual misconduct occurred between March and August of this year. Court records state the reporting party’s wife intercepted a conversation thread on Facebook between the girl and Owens, a band teacher at William Chrisman High School in Independence. After looking through the messages, the reporting party discovered that many of the chats contained sexually explicit and inappropriate messages from Owens.
The alleged victim later admitted during an interview with a school counselor that she and Owens had been involved in a romantic relationship since March of this year. Court records indicate the relationship included kissing and touching, which sometimes occurred in the band room and on school property.
Following the initial investigation, Independence police obtained consent from the reporting party to search the victim’s cell phone, where it was discovered that Owens and the victim had also been communicating via text messages and telephone calls.
Police subsequently obtained a warrant to search Owens’ Lee’s Summit home where they seized a cell phone, computer and an Apple iPod. Data obtained included photographs of the victim without a shirt or bra. A search of Owens’ cell phone records indicated more than 100 calls were made to or from the victim’s phone and 1,520 text messages were sent between June and August of this year, court records state.
According to a statement from the Independence School District, the allegations were brought to the district’s attention in August, at which time it started its own investigation. Owens was immediately put on leave and has not returned to William Chrisman. His name and photo do not appear on the school’s website, either.
District Superintendent Jim Hinson issued a statement following formal charges against Owens. It stated in part that Hinson and the district “has issued a statement of charges against the contract of a William Chrisman High School teacher. Those charges seek the termination of teacher James Owens’ contract following allegations of an inappropriate relationship between Owens and a student at William Chrisman High School.
“The allegations were brought to the district’s attention more than three months ago. The district immediately put that teacher on leave, and he has not been back to school since. In the meantime, the district has been doing its own investigation and doing everything possible to aid police with their investigation.”
The statement also noted that the Independence Police Department asked that, to protect the integrity of their investigation, the district not release information about the allegations until they were ready to pursue charges against Owens.
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office also asked that the district not give interviews or offer any information beyond the district’s statement.