Man accused of groping teachers arraigned

Garth Hill

A Syracuse man pleads not guilty to charges he groped two elementary school teachers. Garth Hill was arraigned in Onondaga County court Monday. He is now being held without bail.

The 28-year-old is charged with burglary and forcible touching. Syracuse police say he walked into a classroom at McKinley-Brighton Elementary school back in the fall and fondled a teacher in front of a class filled with students. Police say he then walked down the hallway and groped another teacher before he was confronted by a school administrator and took off.

Police say Hill left his wallet behind, which was used along with witness statements to identify him.

Police have made an arrest in the case of a man who allegedly groped two elementary school teachers earlier this week.

Syracuse Police announced Thursday afternoon that they have arrested 28-year-old Garth Hill of Brighton Avenue in Syracuse on charges of burglary and forcible touching. Police allege Hill walked into a classroom at the McKinley-Brighton Elementary School and fondled a teacher in front of a classroom full of first grade students. Hill is then said to have walked out of the classroom and down a hallway, where he allegedly groped a second teacher. He was confronted by a member of the school TMs administration staff, but managed to escape.

Police say when Hill fled the school he left behind his wallet, which was used along with witness statements to identify him. Police say they do not know how Hill got into the school.

Hill is currently in police custody on a parole violation. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Syracuse City Court. Police have not released a photo of his, as they say they are still investigating the incident.

Wednesday evening coverage:

Parents at McKinley Brighton Magnet Elementary School are shocked, after learning a man entered the school on Friday and fondled two teachers. Syracuse police say 1st graders witnessed the incident.

"This is crazy, and something needs to be done about it," says Danara Brumfield, who has a son at the school.

"I don't understand why somebody would do that," says Alex Smith, who has a little brother at McKinley Brighton. "I find it troubling to be honest."

Syracuse Superintendent Dan Lowengard says the district finds it troubling, too.

"It's scary for the adults," says Lowengard. "I mean, certainly kids are what we think about, but we don't ever expect our adults to be assaulted in any way."

He says the district is still trying to figure out how the man got into the school. Lowengard says there is a single point of entry at the school, that entrance is monitored by a security camera, and everyone has to sign in.

However, parents say there was a Halloween parade inside of the school Friday morning, and many people were coming in and out. Some believe that may have made it easier for the man to get in.

Lowengard says the school's investigation is continuing, and he's working with Syracuse police. He says the school district has recently spent $2.5 million on a two year security project. That included putting a camera at the entrance to all of the elementary schools and many of the other schools.

Lowengard says eventually, he'd like to have surveillance of the entire schools.

Previous Wednesday coverage:

Police say a person of interest who may be involved in a case of fondling against two teachers is in custody on a separate incident.

Syracuse Police held a news conference Wednesday morning to offer more details in the case of two Syracuse elementary school teachers being fondled by an intruder in front of their students last week.

Syracuse Police spokesman Sgt. Tom Connellan said the incident happened Friday around 10:30 a.m. He says detectives are unsure how the suspect got into the building, and he was not caught on school security cameras.

Police say he went into a first grade classroom, sexually fondled a female teacher, and then went down the hall and did the same thing to another teacher. That's when he was then confronted by a school administrator, who took him to the 'school office' to question him. Police say the suspect then fled.

Connellan says they're close to making an arrest and filing charges, but they're waiting to get a positive identification from witnesses, particularly teachers and administrators.

"Obviously this is a troubling case, and we do have good leads. We do believe we know who this person is, and I can tell you he is not a threat to the public. I can go further on it when we get a positive ID in this case" said Connellan.

Connellan says the suspect left behind his wallet at the schools, which they are using to provide identification for the suspect.

Police say the suspect has a violent history, but his criminal record does not include sexual violations. They say the suspect recently violated his parole, although they did not say what offense he committed, and they did not get into detail over his specific past crimes.

Connellan says the investigation into the case is ongoing and there is no known motive at this time.

Original Story - Tuesday evening:

Police are investigating a report of an intruder fondling teachers in front of elementary school students last week.

Syracuse Police officers say a man entered McKinley Brighton Magnet Elementary School around 10:30 last Friday morning. He walked into a first grade classroom and fondled a teacher in front of students. After that, he walked down the hall and did the same thing to another teacher.

The intruder was confronted by an administrator and taken to the school's office, but he ran away.

Police held a news conference Tuesday evening to offer more details on the case. They say they do not know how the intruder got into the school, and security cameras on the premises did not pick him up. They did mention that the school was holding its Halloween festivities that day, and more parents and other adults than usual were in and out of the school grounds.

School district spokesman Michael Hennessy said today the district is trying to determine how he got into the building. He says there is video surveillance and security guards, and visitors have to sign in. The district is trying to determine if the Halloween festivities made it easier for the intruder to get in.

Police say they believe they know who the suspect is, but need to confirm a positive identification before they can make an arrest or release more information on him. They say they do not have anyone in custody at this time, and teachers at the school did not know who he was.

"We believe we know exactly who the man is," said Syracuse Police spokesman Sgt. Tom Connellan at the news conference. "Our detectives are working with the witnesses to try to have them get him identified, and then we're going to go out and try to make an arrest in this case."

Sgt. Connellan went on to say how disturbing and shocking the alleged incident was.

"...Just one of those cases where you shake your head... you can't believe that someone would come into a school and do this to a teacher in front of students" said Sgt. Connellan.

Police say the intruder left a personal item at the scene, but would not elaborate on what exactly it was.