Ex-area teacher accused of fondling students again released on bond

Ramon Santuario-Mendoza, 48, had been held in the Navarro County Jail since Aug. 6. (Jail photo)
By  | 

CORSICANA, Texas (KWTX) An ex-Corsicana elementary school teacher accused of groping students in the classroom was released from jail Wednesday for a third time after a state district judge reduced his bond from $3 million to $101,000.

Ramon Santuario-Mendoza, 48, had been held in the Navarro County Jail since Aug. 6 when he was rearrested by Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner and other deputies, just hours after he released on a bond that a judge had reduced from $676,000 to $276,000.

As a condition of his release, Mendoza was required to surrender his passport, wear an ankle monitor, remain in Navarro County, report to the county’s probation office weekly, stay away from places where children gather and avoid social media, Navarro County District Attorney Will Dixon said at the time.

Dixon said Mendoza failed to show up to get the ankle monitor and failed to check into the probation department, so the new warrant was issued.

In a lengthy ruling Tuesday, however, District Judge James Lagomarsino, who set the $3 million bond in August, said the evidence showed that Mendoza was released nearly four hours late and, because he was “malnourished upon release from the Navarro County Jail and unable to drive,” couldn’t immediately find a ride to Dallas to be fitted with the monitor.

“In hindsight, the court should have given a specific and measurable amount of time for the defendant to report,” the judge wrote.

The bond reduction order issued Tuesday also includes a long list of conditions including the ankle monitor.

In the order, Lagomarsino also denied a defense request to hold pre-trial hearings in chambers.

“The court will not conduct hearings in secret nor will the court close the courtroom to the general public or the media.”

But the judge ruled that cameras and audio recording in the courtroom or immediately outside the courtroom won’t be permitted without his written permission and granted a partial gag order that says participants in the proceedings may comment only on the general nature of the case and allegations, information contained in the public record and scheduling.

Mendoza, who’s charged with multiple counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact, was first arrested on April 22 near Angus in southern Navarro County and was charged with six counts of indecency with a child by contact.

He was released from jail after posting a $450,000 bond, but was rearrested on April 30 on six additional counts.

He remained in jail until Aug. 6 when Lagomarsino reduced his bond from $676,000 to $276,000

He was released at around noon that day and was rearrested that night after he failed to get fitted with an ankle monitor.

Lagomarsino set his bond at $3 million.

Mendoza, who was an English as a second language teacher at Sam Houston Elementary School in Corsicana, is accused of fondling female students in his classroom over a period of more than a year, according to affidavits.

Affidavits submitted for four of the arrest warrants were based on the responses of the alleged victims during forensic interviews conducted at the Navarro County Child Advocacy Center.

One girl, who made an outcry to her parents on April 17, told the interview that Mendoza “touched her breast multiple times under her shirt,” during the current school year according to the affidavit.

She told the interviewer, “Mr. Mendoza would tell her to come to his desk and read to him (and then) would untuck her shirt and put his hand up her shirt touching her breast,” according to the affidavit.

A victim who made an outcry to her parents on April 18, described a similar incident that occurred during the current school year.

“Mr. Mendoza would come to her desk area during tests, crouch down next to her and put his hand up her shirt touching her breast.” Also occurred while she was standing at his desk.

She told the interviewer that “Mr. Mendoza also put his hand up her shirt touching her breast while she was standing at Mr. Mendoza’s desk,” the affidavit said.

A girl who made an outcry to her parents on April 21 described an alleged incident that occurred during the 2017-2018 school year in which Mendoza had her touch his genitals.

The girl said she was at the teacher’s desk “and Mendoza held her hand and then pulled it down to his lap” and then rubbed her hand over his genitals outside of his clothing, according to the affidavit.

The fourth alleged incident, involved a girl who made an outcry to her parents on April 21 and then told interviewers that Mendoza touched her genitals.

She told the interviewer that “while at Mendoza’s desk Mendoza asked her to come sit on his lap….then put his hand down her pants between her pants and underwear” and rubbed his hand on her genitals over her underwear.

On April 17, the same day the first victim made an outcry, parents were notified in a message from the district’s chief operations officer, Billy Harlan, that Mendoza had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of unspecified allegations.

Another teacher was assigned to the class, Harlan's message said.

District police officials met with parents on April 23 at the school

Only parents were allowed to attend the meeting, but one parent, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the officials discussed the difference between sexual contact and sexual abuse.

Mendoza was certified in April 2014 to teach at the elementary level from early childhood through the sixth grade, according to Texas Education Agency records.

The certification is valid until Nov. 30.

In December 2018, he received supplemental certification as an English as Second Language teacher.

That certification is also valid until Nov. 30.