New details in New London school investigation reveals rape claims

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New London — A former middle school student now alleges that former New London school employee Corriche Gaskin violently raped her on two occasions between classes inside Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School.

New details of the criminal investigation of Gaskin, who faces charges related to the alleged sexual assault of two middle school students, were revealed on Friday, sometimes in graphic detail, with the opening of police arrest warrant affidavits and search warrant applications previously sealed by court order.

The rape allegations are related to Gaskin's most recent arrest, on June 27 on two charges of second-degree sexual assault and two charges of risk of injury to a minor. Two underage victims so far have been identified in connection with the cases.

The police reports shed some light on a wide-spanning police investigation that began on March 19, 2019, when police first were alerted to a complaint of a sexual assault of an underage student.

School Resource Officer Joseph Buzzelli started the investigation and police reports reveal a host of investigators since have fanned out to conduct numerous interviews with students and staff.

The district has placed multiple staff members on paid administrative leave, police and state Department of Children and Families investigations are ongoing, the school board is taking a hard look at its policies and procedures and the office of the Child Advocate has begun a review of the district.

The girl who made the rape allegations, who witnesses say was a babysitter for Gaskin’s children, initially denied sexual contact with Gaskin but did tell police Gaskin had shown her sexually explicit homemade cellphone videos of himself with two school staff members and an underage student, among other videos.

The unidentified girl continued to deny any assault had occurred until June 11, during a second forensic interview. She claims she was in seventh grade — she would have been 13 or 14 years of age at the time — when she was called into Gaskin’s office, where he told her to lift up her shirt. She said she told Gaskin, "no,” before he pushed her onto a desk, pulled her clothes off and raped her, the girl told police.

“Gaskin then told (the victim) she could not tell anyone about the incident or he would kill her, citing that he has children and he would tell her mother that she came onto him,” the arrest warrant affidavit states.

In a second alleged incident, when the girl was in eighth grade, the alleged victim said she was among other students returning to class after a promotional ceremony rehearsal when Gaskin pulled her into a storage closet at the school. She told police she tried to leave “but Gaskin had shut the door and was standing in front of it.”

Gaskin, 35, in 6 feet 3 inches and weighs 300 pounds.

“Stop being a slut you know you want it,” she alleges Gaskin said before he sexually assaulted her. She returned to class and was so visibly upset that the teacher told her to sit in the rear of the class to calm down.

Gaskin confirmed to police the alleged victim was a babysitter for his children but said he stopped using her as a babysitter in 2018 because “he felt (the victim) was not responsible enough to watch his children,” one affidavit states.

He was already held in prison on previous charges related to the alleged sexual assault of an eighth-grader in his middle school office. The incidents allegedly occurred in the 2016-17 school year.

Other charges against Gaskin include second-degree sexual assault, third-degree possession of child pornography, voyeurism, disseminating voyeuristic material and four counts of risk of injury to a minor.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him and remains held in lieu of a combined $650,000 in bonds.

Attorney Gordon Videll represents the victim who alleges the rape. When asked if he thought the charges fit the alleged crime, Videll said, “the entire investigation is complicated and fluid and I’d be surprised if the charges didn’t change given the severity of the facts.”

School Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie, hired in 2018, issued a statement on Friday in response to an inquiry from the Day.

“Documents recently unsealed by the Court related to the terminated employee, are currently being reviewed. Be assured, the school district will continue to act swiftly with undeterred resolve to protect all of our students and will continue working with law enforcement,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie, among other actions, has enlisted an outside firm to conduct a hiring audit of employees. Two of the three employees charged by police in their investigation had previous criminal histories.

A convicted felon who was hired by New London Schools in 2014, Gaskin was an in-school suspension monitor when he was promoted to the position of “school climate specialist” at the middle school in 2015, counseling students with disciplinary issues, among other duties.

The other, former Bennie Dover teacher Melissa Rodriguez, 35, was charged on May 28 with failure to report abuse, neglect or injury to a child or imminent risk of serious harm to a child by a mandated reporter. Her case remains sealed. Rodriguez, when she was known as Melissa Valentin, was arrested and convicted with a host of other people for her role in a large mortgage fraud scheme orchestrated by former New London mortgage broker Jose Guzman.

On Aug. 20, 2018, Gaskin was reassigned to Harbor Elementary School. During the investigation and interviews with numerous staff and administrators, “no explanation has been provided for the reason the Suspect was transferred,” one New London police investigator wrote in his affidavit.

Gaskin since has been terminated.

During Gaskin's initial arrest on April 5, 2019, police searched his Groton home and seized his iPhone, along with laptops, tablets and a camera. Police reports indicate that police obtained a federal search warrant issued for Gaskin’s Snapchat account, Reek42.

“A review of the data is ongoing,” police reports show.

So far, police have revealed that information collected from seized evidence shows that on March 19, the day the school district informed Gaskin he was being placed on paid administrative leave, Gaskin made 16 web searches related to his Snapchat account, searches that included “can things that are on snap chat still be seen on a person phone if you block them,” and “when law enforcement goes to retrieve snap chat message does it show pictures.”

In addition to the web searches, “numerous videos of women depicted in various forms of sexual activities with the Suspect were observed as well,” one police warrant affidavit states.

Police were granted a warrant to search through Gaskin’s Snapchat history between Sept.1, 2016, and April 5, 2019. It remains unclear if police could obtain any data from Snapchat.

Police interviewed Ritchie on April 11, 2019, who confirmed Gaskin was hired under a federal “Project Prevent” grant and was to provide additional support to students who may require more help. He was one of three climate specialists hired under the grant and the position would have “oversight under the three principals dedicated to the BDJMS.”

Two of the three administrators at Bennie Dover, Alison Burdick and Lawrence Washington, have since been placed on paid administrative leave. A third middle school administrator at the time of the alleged incidents, Maribel Olivero, was serving as the interim director of operations to the magnet middle school and is now the director of bilingual education, ESL and world languages.

Both Burdick, who has a pending lawsuit against the district in response to her suspension, and Washington were interviewed by police in the case, though few details of those conversations are included in the reports unsealed Friday. Washington had worked closely with Gaskin coaching students after school in the Amateur Athletic Union basketball program.

Burdick explained to police that climate specialists make data entries about students they were meeting with into a PowerSchool database maintained by the school. Police since have filed a search warrant for data related to the two alleged victims in the district’s Student Wide Information System.

The identity of the two employees who admitted to having consensual sex with Gaskin — a 25-year-old teacher and a 21-year-old paraprofessional at the middle school — was not revealed in reports unsealed Friday.

Details on allegations against Jevon Elmore, 25, a middle school paraprofessional and high school track coach charged with second-degree sexual assault, also remain sealed.

Gaskin is due back in court on Aug. 1.

g.smith@theday.com 

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