In Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, a high school teacher was charged with several counts of sexual assault, after caught having a relationship with a then-senior male student. The student testified that English teacher Rose Marie LiMuli, 40, had been trying to engage him in a sexual relationship for some time, buying him gifts like clothes and bikes, and eventually committing sexual acts with the minor.
“At first it was just a friendly relationship and then it turned into a sexual relationship… Everyone was cool with her,” said the former student when he testified. “She bought me … anything I wanted, honestly. She was buying me stuff every single week.”
The teen says the teacher about him a new dirt bike, and took him shopping to premium outlets during the holidays. She also would buy him food, even giving him her card to share with friends.
“I caught on that she wanted something sexual out of everything she gave me… I didn’t have any affection toward her. She was buying me stuff,” continued the teenager in his explanation to the jury.
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The teenager testified the first sexual encounter occurred when LiMuli gave him a ride home from school and stopped at a local dog park off Camp Hill Road, where she allegedly performed oral sex on him. The former student testified other sexual encounters, about 10 during the four month period, occurred at the dog park and on a parking lot of a nearby business after school, during school breaks and on weekends.
In January 2016, LiMuli went to the teenager’s Dresher home while his mother was working and the two engaged in sexual intercourse one time, the 2016 graduate testified. LiMuli allegedly also made sexually charged comments to him and fondled him in a private area of her classroom out of sight of other students, testimony revealed.
The teenager testified LiMuli told him not to tell anyone about the encounters.
LiMuli, of the 1500 block of North Line Street, Lansdale, is charged with multiple felony counts of institutional sexual assault. Under state law, even though the teenager was 18 at the time of the alleged assaults, it is still illegal for an employee of a school to have sexual contact with a student.
“She used the institution to basically turn an 18-year-old student into a sex object. This teacher showered this 18-year-old student with gifts in order to foster and continue this sexual relationship,” Assistant District Attorney James Price argued during his opening statement to jurors.
But defense lawyer Matthew Sedacca urged jurors to keep an open mind and to examine the teenager’s credibility. As he cross-examined the teenager, Sedacca implied the teenager’s trial testimony was inconsistent at times with testimony he gave at previous hearings.
Sedacca did not reveal if LiMuli will testify during the trial, which is expected to last about two days.
Testimony revealed the investigation began after rumors about the relationship circulated at the high school and township detectives were contacted. When detectives first approached the teenager about the allegations, he denied the relationship, testimony revealed.
“I felt bad. I didn’t want to get her in trouble,” the teenager testified. “I was trying to look out for her.”
However, the teenager claimed LiMuli later contacted him and threatened that if he told anyone about the relationship that she would claim he was blackmailing her. The teenager testified that’s when he returned to police and confirmed the allegations.
Price said the teenager’s claims are corroborated by other evidence, including cellphone records.
Upper Dublin Detective Michael Scarpato testified teacher and student had more than 260 phone contacts between November 2015 and March 2016. Detectives also uncovered 279 Snapchat messages between LiMuli and the student during that time period.
LiMuli was placed on administrative leave by the school district last April 19, pending the outcome of an investigation after the alleged relationship was reported to police. In a May 2 letter to parents, following the teacher’s arrest, district Superintendent Deborah Wheeler said LiMuli had been suspended pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.
LiMuli remains free on bail pending the outcome of her trial.