Unsealed warrant: New London teacher, Gaskin speculated about sex with students in texts

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The Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School teacher arrested in connection with a school sex case had speculated about students having sex with staff members in a text message exchange with Corriche Gaskin, a staff member later charged with having sex with students and recording video of the encounters, according to an arrest warrant affidavit unsealed Thursday in New London Superior Court.

Melissa Rodriguez, 35, of 59 Sunset View, Griswold, was arrested May 28 and charged with failure of a mandated reporter to report abuse, a misdemeanor crime to which she has pleaded not guilty.  

She had worked as a dual language teacher at the same school where Gaskin, a behavioral specialist, allegedly had sex with two middle school students. Police allege he recorded the sexual encounters on his phone and shared them with others. 

The redacted arrest warrant affidavit in Rodriguez's case, written by school resource officer Joseph Buzzelli, indicates that the March 3 text conversation between Rodriguez and Gaskin was discovered after police seized Gaskin's cellphone March 19, after receiving a report that a now 16-year-old high school student had been sexually assaulted by Gaskin while attending the middle school.

But when New London police Detective Richard Curcuro interviewed Rodriguez, on May 22, Rodriguez stated several times that she was not aware of inappropriate relationships or rumors involving adults and juveniles, according to the affidavit.

Confronted with a transcript of the March 3 text conversation with Gaskin, she said it was Gaskin who was talking about inappropriate relationships and telling her "gossip she didn't want to hear."

The revelations about Gaskin sparked a wide-ranging investigation that resulted in several staff members being suspended or reassigned and three arrests. He remains incarcerated and has pleaded not guilty to second-degree sexual assault, child pornography possession, voyeurism with malice, dissemination of voyeuristic material and multiple counts of risk of injury to a minor.

Rodriguez and fellow teacher Laquana Sheppard were placed on paid administrative leave by Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie on May 3, "pending the outcome of an internal investigation." They were told not to report to work until further notice, not to discuss the investigation with anyone and not to access district computer systems or programs while on leave.

Rodriguez resigned May 6. Her resignation letter, obtained from New London Schools through a Freedom of Information request, indicated she did not want to put herself through additional stress, anxiety and panic attacks as the result of the investigation, and that she would have somebody collect her belongings from her classroom.

The affidavit in Rodriguez's case indicates that during the March 3 text exchange, Rodriguez and Gaskin discussed whether middle school paraprofessional Jevon Elmore, known as "Jigg," and others were having sex with students. Rodriguez texted that she could tell Elmore was having sex with young girls.

"He wants to (expletive) (the victim)," Rodriguez texted. "I don't like how he looks at her."

"Wouldn't be surprised if they didn't link up already," Gaskin responded.

Elmore, who worked as a paraprofessional and high school track coach, is the third person arrested in connection with the Gaskin case. He has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree assault. The arrest warrant affidavit in his case remains sealed.

Rodriguez is due back in court Sept. 16.

She was hired as a substitute teacher of English as a Second Language in 2011. Then known as Melissa Valentin, she resigned in 2012 after being convicted for a role in a mortgage fraud scheme, but was rehired in 2013, according to school records.

Day Staff Writer Greg Smith contributed to this report.

k.florin@theday.com

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