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Boy, teacher testify in Tampa molestation trial

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Published:   |   Updated: September 18, 2013 at 06:55 AM

TAMPA — The 12-year-old boy’s teacher bought him new clothes, took him go karting and even brought a turkey over for his family on Thanksgiving.

Then one day, the boy told a jury on Tuesday, the teacher fondled him, the first of several sex acts over a three-month span.

“I felt she was like my real girlfriend,” the boy, now 14, testified. “She said I was her boyfriend and she loved me. I was thinking, ‘I’m living a guy’s dream ... dating my teacher.”

The relationship between the former Mango Elementary School student and his teacher, 31-year-old Ethel Anderson, was under intense scrutiny by both the prosecution and defense on the first day of Anderson’s trial. Anderson, of Riverview, faces three counts of lewd and lascivious battery, four counts of lewd and lascivious conduct and two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation.

The boy testified that Anderson was tutoring him in math in December 2011 when she started making advances toward him. The boy said that over the next few months, Anderson fondled him, performed oral sex on him and that they simulated sexual acts on each other while remaining fully clothed at least nine times.

The incidents took place at Anderson’s Riverview home, sometimes when Anderson’s roommates were in the house and one time when the two were watching the movie “Fight Club,” the boy said.

The two sent hundreds of sexually explicit text messages to each other, talking about what they had done, prosecutors said.

In the text messages, which totaled 230 pages and were presented in court Tuesday, the boy and Anderson would call each other “baby” and professed their love for one another. In one message, Anderson told the boy she could see him being a good father and asked about the possibility of having a child with him when he was older.

At the time, Anderson was married, and she and her husband had a 5-year-old daughter.

“Ethel said she was planning on leaving her husband because he wasn’t a good dad and he didn’t communicate,” the boy said.

The boy testified that he eventually began to have doubts about his relationship with Anderson.

“I’m dating a girl I’m in love with and she thinks of me as a kid,” he said. “It doesn’t feel right.”

After the boy’s testimony, Anderson took the stand and testified that no sexual acts occurred between her and the boy.

Anderson said the boy was emotionally troubled and struggling in school. She said her former student was the one who initiated physical contact.

“He attempted, at one point, to grab me in an inapproriate manner,” Anderson said. “He attempted to kiss me and I pushed him off.”

Assistant State Attorney Rita Peters asked why Anderson would send explicit text messages to a 12-year-old.

Anderson said that what was described in the text messages did not occur. The messages, she said, were all part of an elaborate strategy to keep the boy focused on his studies.

“I recognize it was explicit and inappropriate, but it was all fantasy,” Anderson said. “He was going through puberty. He couldn’t connect with his family, he was always thinking sexually. My purpose was to get his attention.”

“You want the jury to believe...that you were in fantasy land to help (the boy)?” Peters asked. “Was that part of your training as teacher? So by giving in to these sexual fantasies ... he did better in school?”

Anderson responded, “Sometimes, yes.”

The boy told his mother about his relations with Anderson after the student and teacher got into an argument, according to court testimony. The boy said she was bossy; Anderson said they stopped talking after she became more stern while telling him he had to do better with his studies.

The boy took it as a threat, she said, telling Anderson, “you’re going to lose your job.”

The trial is expected to conclude today, with closing arguments this morning before the case goes to the jury.

rreyes@tampatrib.com

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