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Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

Video of school bus driver shows 'bizarre' behavior, touching, witnesses testify

By Wendy Leonard, Deseret News

Published: Wed, July 30 2:45 p.m. MDT

 John Martin Carrell, left, watches videos presented as evidence with investigator Nick DeLand at right during a preliminary hearing in 3rd District Court in West Jordan, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. The former Canyons School District bus driver is charged with 23 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child involving one girl and 10 counts, one of them attempted, involving another.

John Martin Carrell, left, watches videos presented as evidence with investigator Nick DeLand at right during a preliminary hearing in 3rd District Court in West Jordan, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. The former Canyons School District bus driver is charged with 23 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child involving one girl and 10 counts, one of them attempted, involving another.

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

WEST JORDAN — Former Canyons School District bus driver John Martin Carrell spent more time unbuckling the seat belt of one 5-year-old girl than he did with other children on his route.

Surveillance video retrieved from Carrell's bus (No. 250) also shows the same young girl spending several minutes standing between the legs of the 61-year-old bus driver, prior to her teacher meeting the bus each morning from February to April.

Carrell can also be seen touching the girl's hair, even though district policy forbids any physical interactions with students, district human resource director Steve Dimond testified Wednesday during a preliminary hearing for Carrell in 3rd District Court.

Dimond said district employees are allowed to high-five or fist-bump with students, but never touch, hug or allow lap-sitting.

"All employees are role models and their behavior is encouraged to be professional and appropriate," he said. "Professional behavior is respectful, courteous and kind. If you are going to touch, it should be for the safety and well-being of the student."

Hours of video were played during the hearing as evidence in the case against Carrell, who is charged with 23 first-degree felony counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child involving one girl and 11 counts, one of them attempted, involving another 5-year-old girl on a different route.

District officials were notified of potential allegations against Carrell and pulled him from his regular route mid-day on April 24. The girls' parents had contacted the district.

Dimond said Carrell showed "a flat effect" when presented with the allegations. In a statement also admitted as evidence, Dimond said Carrell wrote, "I have never touched any student in an inappropriate manner."

Dimond said Carrell told him he was "a grandpa," but following Carrell's brief demonstration of what happened on the bus, Dimond called the driver's behavior "bizarre."

"He said he held their hands. I couldn't understand why he'd hold hands in that way," Dimond said.

Dimond and Carrell's supervisor, Lorraine Miles, both told the court that the district has not received any complaints about behavior occurring on any bus routes and they haven't had any reason to review surveillance tapes that are kept on board the buses in locked containers until now.

Another parent informed the district of concerns with his daughter acting out after he learned of the initial charges against Carrell. A case involving his daughter was then investigated.

Bus No. 250 has four cameras, Miles, the district's special education bus route coordinator, said. She said the cameras begin recording when the engine is turned on and stay running for 15 minutes after the engine is shut off.

At least once during the recorded routes, Carrell can be seen staring directly into the camera at the front of the bus.

There were four children on Carrell's morning bus route to the school — two boys and two girls — including one of the victims. All of the children are between the ages of 3 and 5 and attend Altara Elementary.

The children are belted in their seats on the bus using a booster-type restraining seat with a five-point harness system that fastens between their legs. Miles said some drivers have expressed discomfort with the seats, specifically because of the district's no-touching policy.

Sandy police detective Andrea Hansen told the court that teachers of the alleged victims told her that one of the girls requires or seeks attention in the form of hugs; and the other, who is raised by her father, "deals better with men."

The court will reconvene Thursday at 10 a.m. to hear arguments in defense of Carrell.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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1. NeilT
Clearfield, UT,
July 31, 2014

Touching a student's hair is not sex abuse. He may have violated district policy but where is the criminal behavior. There was nothing in the article that indicated any type of sexual abuse. I hope he has a real good attorney.

2. hockeymom
Highland, UT,
July 31, 2014

Where is the bus driver's aide during all of this? In our district, there is a aide that rides along with the driver, two deep leadership style. The aide is there for the purpose of buckling children in and out and just crowd control. No district is too small to warrant an aide on the bus. Bus driver's drive, aides manage the kids. That's how it's done.

3. happymomto9
Saratoga Springs, UT,
July 31, 2014

sounds like a witch hunt to me.

4. Uncle_Fester
Niskayuna, NY,
July 31, 2014

He should have the middle name "McMartin," because this is sounding a lot like that case.

5. Mormonmama0106
Phoenix, AZ,
Aug. 3, 2014

In our district we are so short on drivers and assistants (the district is desperately trying to hire, but as we are one of the lowest-paid districts in our area we lose staff as fast as they are hired). This leaves many drivers in the position of having to do everything themselves. I know several male drivers who encourage their students to attempt to buckle themselves in, as they are not comfortable putting their hands anywhere near the child's lap. Cameras were installed on our buses just this year and we drivers are truly grateful, but even with the cameras it is not always clear as to what is going on.

I just hope that the truth, whatever it is, will come out in this trial.