A former Desert Garden Montessori School teacher faces 10 felony counts on charges he allegedly had an 18-month sexual relationship with a student that started when she was 15.
Justin Walters, 29, was arrested in Chicago as he was returning from Turkey, according to a U.S. Marshal’s Service social media announcement posted May 13.
Phoenix Police detectives in an affidavit said Walters, had fled to Istanbul, Turkey, last Jan. 1, apparently a few days after detectives had interviewed him.
The school released a statement to some local television stations last Thursday that said, “We have learned through the US Marshal’s office that a former employee of the school has been arrested on charges of inappropriate conduct with a student. The employee who was arrested has not been associated with the school since December of 2020.
“At this time, we do not have any additional information. We will continue to cooperate with the authorities until the investigation is complete.
“Our students’ safety remains, above all, our highest priority and any threat to that safety is taken very seriously. Our attention remains with the well-being of our students, our staff and our community during this difficult time.”
According to court records filed by Phoenix Police, detectives were told on Dec. 23 that a 16-year-old girl was in a sexual relationship with her teacher.
On Dec. 30, the victim in an interview with detectives said “she became close with her teacher Justin when she was 14 years old after a school field trip to Puerto Rico.
“The victim and Justin began messaging each other and Justin told the victim that he had feelings for her and was attracted to her,” the affidavit states.
Walters had the victim create a Snapchat account and after asking her to send photos, “the victim sent Justin sexually explicit pictures.”
He then sent her sexually explicit photos of him, police said.
Their first sexual encounter occurred June 4, 2019, according to the affidavit, after Walters picked up the victim, who had just turned 15, and went to Walmart, where he bought an air mattress and alcohol. The two then drove to an unknown place in the desert where they engaged in sexual intercourse in the back of his truck.
“She disclosed it hurt a lot,” the affidavit states.
Walters then took the girl to his residence, where he “snuck her past his roommate” for sex, the affidavit states.
The alleged sexual encounters also included a visit to an Airbnb in Scottsdale, where “the victim stated she and Justin had a lot of sex” and “she and Justin wrote in a journal about what they would do when she turned 18,” the affidavit states.
The affidavit states “the journal was never located,” but that Airbnb records show Walters “did message the Airbnb host about his missing journal but the host never located it.”
The affidavit said the victim told detectives of multiple sexual encounters at Airbnbs, in a parking lot near a Mesa doctor’s office, at Walters’ parents’ home, and that their last encounter was last Dec. 22.
Police said they found a photo on the girl’s cellphone showing her kissing Walters on the cheek and that they also have police body camera footage of Walters and the girl from a Feb. 2, 2020, traffic stop in Scottsdale.
The affidavit also states that police have Walters’ DNA obtained from the victim’s clothing.
“The victim was 15 to 16 years old during the acts while Justin was between the ages of 27 and 28,” the affidavit states.
A warrant was issued for Walters May 5, according to court records.
It was not clear whether he has
been released on bond, though County Jail records indicate he is not being held there.