Steamboat Springs The allegations against a former teacher of sexually assaulting at least one child have left the Heritage Christian School community shocked and saddened.
“Obviously, we are very, very much saddened, sickened about the story that has come out,” said Dave Entwistle, the school’s administrator, who was not at the school when investigators think the reported assaults happened between 2006 and 2008.
“It hasn’t been proved yet, but if the allegations are true, we’re obviously very saddened about everything,” Entwistle said. “We’re still very much in shock. It goes against everything we stand for as a school."
Routt County Sheriff’s Office investigator T.J. Sisto picked up John Holland Brothers Jr., 42, last week in Louisiana and booked him into the Routt County Jail on Tuesday night. Brothers, who is thought to have lived in Routt County for three years, has been charged with 27 felonies related to sex assault involving children.
Neither Entwistle nor Sheriff’s Office officials will say whether the suspected assaults involved students at the school, but the charges specify the crimes occurred between April 1, 2006, and May 31, 2008. Entwistle confirmed Brothers taught at the school during that time.
Undersheriff Ray Birch said Tuesday that he thought it was important for members of the community and parents to know about the allegations because the Sheriff’s Office thinks there are additional local alleged victims.
“If one of my three boys were going to that school, I would want to know,” Birch said.
Entwistle emailed a letter to parents Thursday morning, the day after the allegations were published on Steamboat Today’s website.
Entwistle said he learned Tuesday afternoon that Brothers was in custody. On Wednesday morning, school officials met with faculty members. On Thursday morning, a sign posted outside the school informed parents that there was a parent meeting that night. Teachers met with middle and high school students Thursday morning about the allegations.
At Thursday night’s parent meeting, which was not open to the media, Entwistle said he would apologize to parents who might be upset because information did not first come from the school.
“I’m going to apologize to them because it wasn’t intentional,” Entwistle said.
He said Birch would be at the meeting to discuss the allegations. Birch said Thursday that he would not be telling parents whether the alleged victim or victims were students at the school. Entwistle said he would not be discussing the allegations and refused to comment when asked whether the alleged victim or victims were students at the school.
Entwistle said he hoped the parents would be supportive.
“I know they’re going to be very saddened, as well,” Entwistle said. “I hope they will understand the legal end of things and will again understand as a school we are doing everything we can to cooperate with law enforcement. There may be some that are just struggling with trust issues toward the school, but we want to make sure that we communicate clearly that we are going to do all we can to provide a safe environment.”
He said that he never had met Brothers and that Brothers underwent a background check, which he passed before being hired at the school. Brothers primarily taught science and a Bible class to middle and high school students and taught some math and history courses, Entwistle said.
“He was well-liked by the students and appreciated, which makes something like this certainly very difficult because he is someone who has a message that the kids buy into and in a sense a role model to the kids, and when this comes out, it undermines a little bit the message itself, and I’m sure we’ll have some kids that will be processing that,” Entwistle said.
The school has 80 students, 33 of whom are in middle or high school, Entwistle said.
Messages left with several parents were not returned Thursday afternoon.
Entwistle said counselors and church leaders from the community would be available to help the school’s families.
In addition to his work at the school, Brothers had been a pastor at First Baptist Church in Yampa. Current pastor Kelly Carlson said Brothers was the pastor for about a year until May 2008. Carlson said that Brothers was hired on an interim, part-time basis and that he preached in Yampa only on Sundays.
Carlson said members of the church were shocked to learn about the allegations.
“It’s always a tragedy, but especially in a role of trust — and religious trust at that,” Carlson said.
Brothers is being held in custody with a bond set at $500,000. He is due back in court at 9 a.m. Friday.
In November, police in Kentucky arrested Brothers on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse related to allegations that he sexually assaulted two youths at a church where he worked as a youth minister. He was indicted by a grand jury in February in Kentucky. Until being arrested Friday in Louisiana, Brothers had been free on bond awaiting a May 17 trial in Kentucky.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com