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Ex-school janitor accused of voyeurism

Steve Garrison
stgarrison@daily-times.com
Kirtland Middle School is pictured on Monday in Kirtland. A former school janitor is accused of recording girls in a locker room.

FARMINGTON — A 32-year-old former janitor at Kirtland Middle School is accused of videotaping students as they were undressing in a girl's locker room.

Mervin Yazzie, a Tohatchi resident, was charged May 4 in Aztec Magistrate Court with voyeurism, a fourth-degree felony.

He has not yet retained legal representation, according to court records.

Mervin Yazzie

James Preminger, a spokesman for the Central Consolidated School District, said Monday the district mailed a letter to parents Friday morning informing them about the incident.

The district asked in the letter that any students or staff members with additional information regarding the investigation contact the San Juan County Sheriff's Office or Kirtland Middle School administration.

Several parents said they were upset that the district did not inform parents sooner about the recording.

Shannon Hawkins said her daughter was one of the alleged victims. She said she learned from her daughter on the afternoon of May 3 that the girl was videotaped in the locker room, more than a day after the alleged incident.

Central Consolidated School District Public Relations and Information Officer James Preminger on Monday shows a letter sent to parents about a case of voyeurism during an interview at Kirtland Middle School in Kirtland.

"He had keys to every closet, every backroom," Hawkins said. "What if watching these girls wasn't enough?"

Detective Sgt. Candice Montoya of the San Juan County Sheriff's Office said the school also failed to immediately notify the school resource officer about the allegations.

A detective with the San Juan County Sheriff's Office was dispatched at about 11 a.m. on May 3 to Kirtland Middle School, 538 County Road 6100, after receiving reports of the voyeurism, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

The detective learned at that point several girls reported to school officials on the morning of May 2 that an unknown person recorded them on a cell phone while they were changing clothes in the girl's locker room.

The suspect recorded the girls, several of whom were in a state of undress, through a window in an adjacent locker room, the affidavit states.

Preminger said the girls reported the incident to school officials at about 9 a.m. May 2.

A gym teacher searched the locker room, but he was unable to locate the suspect, according to the affidavit. The school's assistant principal then reviewed surveillance footage, which showed Yazzie exiting the locker room through a back door, the affidavit states.

Preminger said school officials confronted Yazzie about the incident the morning of May 3. Yazzie admitted during that interview he recorded the girls out of "curiosity," according to the affidavit.

Preminger said Yazzie immediately resigned his position. The school resource officer was then contacted about the allegations.

Yazzie was interviewed by detectives May 3 and he admitted he recorded the girls the day before on his cell phone, the affidavit states. He told the detective he also recorded girls undressing in the locker room in November.

Montoya said the detective did not notify parents that day about the incident, but parents were contacted the following day.

"We knew at the end of the day, the children involved, the victims involved, were safe and going home," Montoya said. "Our main concern was getting the arrest warrant secured for him."

Preminger said school officials believed a student had committed a "prank" by recording the girls and that is why the district did not immediately contact authorities and parents.

"We did not believe an adult committed a criminal act until we came to that conclusion Tuesday morning," he said. "As soon as we did, that individual resigned and we contacted police from there."

Preminger agreed the school resource officer should have been notified the day of the incident about the allegations.

Montoya said the school resource officer was not told about the allegations until 11 a.m. May 3, more than 24 hours after the girls reported being recorded.

"Everything unfolded very fast," Preminger said. "As soon as (Principal Randy Mason) realized that there was an adult involved, he contacted the school resource officer."

Preminger said the window through which Yazzie allegedly recorded the girls has since been covered with metal.

Yazzie is being held on a $10,000 bond, according to court records.

He is scheduled to appear Thursday at a preliminary examination hearing.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644. 

Central Consolidated School District Public Relations and Information Officer James Preminger speaks Monday during an interview at Kirtland Middle School.