A Lindbergh Schools middle school teacher who was arrested and investigated for sex crimes in 2008 has now been charged with six felony counts of statutory sodomy in a separate case.
The charges stem from a long-term relationship he is alleged to have had with a high school student in the 1990s.
James B. Wilder III, 47, who has taught at Sperreng Middle School for 20 years and is the district's girls cross country and track coach, was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged Wednesday. Wilder, of the 800 block of Totem Woods Court in Manchester, is being held in the St. Louis County Jail on a $50,000 cash-only bond.
He was charged with the six counts of second-degree statutory sodomy for crimes that occurred between August 1996 and September 1997, when the victim turned 18, police said. Wilder, who has been placed on administrative leave by the district, allegedly had oral sex with the teenager several times when she was 16 years old, according to court documents filed with the case.
"At that time, the 16-year-old Lindbergh High School sophomore advised that she was coached by Wilder, who was the girls cross country and track coach, and they developed a mentor/student relationship," the St. Louis County Police Department said, noting detectives began investigating the case after the victim brought allegations forward this summer concerning her long-term sexual relationship with the teacher and coach.
Wilder was hired at Lindbergh Schools in 1993, and has taught math, health and physical education at Sperreng Middle School during his 20 years with the district, according to Beth Johnston, director of community relations for Lindbergh Schools. He has also coached the girls and boys cross country and track teams throughout the years.
In 1996, the year the crimes allegedly took place, Wilder was a math teacher at Sperreng and coached the girls cross country and track teams, Johnston said. He is currently the physical education teacher at Sperreng and still coaching the girls cross country and track teams, she added.
Tuesday isn't the first time Wilder has been escorted from school property by police. He was arrested on Dec. 9, 2008, by St. Louis County police officers on a charge of second-degree statutory sodomy involving a different student. However, no formal charges were filed against him at that time.
After Wilder's 2008 arrest, Lindbergh Schools placed him on administrative leave for about three months while district officials, the St. Louis County Police Department and the Division of Family Services investigated the allegations. By February 2009, Wilder had been cleared of any wrongdoing. All investigating agencies dropped the case citing a "lack of any credible evidence that any sexual contact had taken place," St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said in May 2009.
Following the ordeal, Wilder told the South County Times he was relieved the allegations were put to rest.
"It was an absolute nightmare," he said in a May 22, 2009 story. "I have kids, and they were dragged through this - wondering why I was at the police station, why I wasn't at school. My wife and I talked to our kids and said, 'Here's what's going on.' There was never a waver on the part of my family. We all came out of it fine."
Lindbergh Schools Superintendent Jim Simpson addressed the prior allegations against Wilder in a letter sent to parents on Wednesday, Aug. 21.
"You may be aware of allegations brought against Mr. Wilder in 2008," he said. "We feel it is important to note that the prosecuting attorney's office did not pursue a case against Mr. Wilder at the time following a months-long investigation by police and the Department of Family Services that failed to generate any credible evidence."
Simpson went on to assure parents that protecting the welfare of all students and providing a safe, secure learning environment is the district's first priority.
"We are deeply troubled by any report alleging that a teacher may have engaged in inappropriate behavior," he said. "Our schools are places where students should always feel safe, and we take any allegations of staff misconduct very seriously."
Johnston said the district will fully cooperate with the St. Louis County Police Department during its investigation, and the district will also conduct its own internal investigation into the matter.
Simpson promised to keep Lindbergh families informed about the "sensitive situation."
"If additional relevant information becomes available, the district and authorities will disclose these details as appropriate or permitted by law," he said.