Authorities began investigating a third grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, California last year after being tipped-off by a local film developer. Strange pictures of children blindfolded with bugs in their mouths, cockroaches on their faces, and an unknown white liquid on cookies being fed to the them are what compelled the processor to report the photos to authorities.
Mark Berndt was arrested monday after a year long investigation. He is charged with committing lewd acts on 23 boys and girls, between the ages of 6 to 10, taking place between 2008 to 2010. About 400 photos have been discovered of the acts at Berndt's home and the processing lab.
Sheriff Lt. Carlos Marquez says,"If it wasn't for the film processor, this could still be continuing today".
Facing a life sentence, Berndt could have been arrested on misdemeanor charges last year but investigators chose to put him under surveillance in hopes of building a much stronger felony case.
Berndt had never had any disciplinary actions taken against him and has been a teacher at the school since 1979. None of the children reported any of the abuses and thought the acts were just part of a "game".
All the known incidents took place during school hours but not all the children involved were members of Berndt's third grade class.
Sheriff Lt. Carlos Marquez elaborates:
"The reason some of the kids are not his students, per se, is that during the lunch breaks or recess, he'd go out to the playground and entice them back to the classroom,"
Currently Berndt id being held on $2.3 million bail. An arraignment is set for Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. The defendant has no previous arrest record.