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The State vs. Michael Scott Shaddix, a case that divided the community and changed state law


 An exclusive interview with Jane Doe No. 1

An interview conducted by
telephone prior to sentencing
by Editor Judy Hodgson.

 A Letter to the Community

The unedited letter submitted
to the court by Michael Shaddix
prior to his sentencing.

IN ADDITION TO DAY-CARE workers and the clergy, teachers are often the first people parents trust to care for their child outside the home. They have the potential to shape the minds and hearts with such a lasting impression, former students sometimes attribute their success in life to a special classroom teacher.

So when a teacher violates a parent's trust as in the case of Michael Shaddix, 36, a Sunny Brae Middle School teacher who in May pleaded guilty to felony child abuse against two former students the impacts reach far beyond the lives of those immediately involved. This particular case, an ordeal that began with his arrest two and a half years ago and ended last month when he was sent to jail, shocked and divided the school and the community.

The impacts of the case also reached all the way to Sacramento where it was used to change state law. Last month Gov. Gray Davis signed into law a bill authored by Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, that makes it easier for victims of child sexual abuse to sue in civil court.

The case of the state vs. Michael Scott Shaddix was one of four used by a national child-advocacy group, the Legislative Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse, to draft the legislation. The law, which goes into effect in January, allows civil suits seeking monetary damages to be filed against responsible third parties, such as schools, churches or individuals, whose actions led to child sexual abuse. And it extends the statute of limitations in civil cases to include adults between 19 and 26 years old who claim they were victims of abuse as a child.

It's a typical age group for victims to come forward with sexual molestation charges, said Consuelo Zermeno, an aide to Ortiz, because children often don't report such incidents.

"One of the most important features of these (four) cases is the institutions would have a policy in place that wouldn't protect a child," said Melissa Knight-Fine, director of the Legislative Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse.

"When these were tried (in criminal court), it was difficult to get a conviction. People need to be aware and the school districts need to be aware" that they could be liable if they fail to protect a child, she said in a telephone interview from the group headquarters in El Dorado Hills in Southern California.

"What we saw over time is (school officials) didn't change their policy. It caused a lot of concern from a child abuse-prevention standpoint," she said.

In the Shaddix case, both mothers of Jane Does No. 1 and 2, now 22 years old, testified that they told Sunny Brae Principal David Hochman that Shaddix had an intense personal relationship with their daughters, ages 11-13 in junior high, that went far beyond that of a typical teacher-student, and that they were concerned.

The mother of Jane Doe No. 1 said both mothers told Hochman of nightly telephone calls, gifts and attention from Shaddix that "crossed over the line as a teacher."

"The school never took me seriously," she told the Journal last month.

According to Tom Chapman, an investigator for the Arcata Police Department, there were three teachers who also reported to Hochman their suspicions of inappropriate behavior by Shaddix such as having a female student in a classroom at lunchtime with curtains drawn and the door locked. Former students also testified of finding the locked door with Shaddix inside with a student.

One teacher, Fred Jamison, testified during the trial that because of rumors going around the school, he reported what he considered "inappropriate behavior" to Hochman, but at the time the possibility of sexual molestation "didn't occur" to him.

Jamison also said he approached Shaddix about his observations.

"(I told him) I don't want to interfere, but as a friend, I can tell you it doesn't look real good to have girls in your room with the doors closed," he said. "(Shaddix) said he'd handle it."

Hochman, who is now superintendent of Fortuna Elementary School District, denies any awareness of complaints at the time the girls were in junior high concerning Shaddix who was promoted to vice principal.

"Had I been told something was going on, I would have responded and investigated," he told the Journal last month. There were never any written complaints, he added.

"My account of it is, that after the fact (when the girls were in high school), claims were made," he said. "No complaint of child abuse was ever brought to me. Had there been evidence, I would have done something."

Shaddix was arrested in 1996 and charged with 13 counts of child molestation that could have resulted in 20 years in prison. Arcata Police Chief Mel Brown recalled the community reaction.

"I had people come into my office the day after Michael was arrested with their heads in their hands saying, `How could you have done this. What a rush to judgement. He's a wonderful teacher and pillar of the community," Brown said. "(These were) people in the community that I know and respect, professional people who I know, who were completely knocked off guard by it. People were really, really upset with us."

What happened next was a polarization within the school and in the community.

"People chose up camps, some saying this guy never did anything like that," Brown said. And there were others, like Jamison, who said they heard and saw things that supported the charges.

"We hoped to we thought we had a pretty good case," Brown said. "I don't have any reason to doubt the victims. There certainly was a lot of corroborating evidence.

"But the burden of proof is very high. You have to convince 12 different people beyond a reasonable doubt," Brown said. "That's a pretty high standard to reach."

In January, after a four-month trial, the jury deadlocked and the judge dismissed them. In May Shaddix pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse, one each with Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 2, in exchange for the district attorney dropping all molestation charges. He was sentenced last month to six months in jail and six years on probation during which time he cannot be in the company of children other than his own without supervision. He was ordered by the court never to teach again and he must attend child-abuse counseling. According to the plea-bargain agreement, after successfully completing probation, the felony convictions will be reduced to misdemeanors and he will not have to register as a sexual offender.

Shaddix' attorney, Greg Rael, said this was never a case about sexual abuse. During the trial he equated the charges to the Salem witch hunts. He said he hopes his client will receive time off for good behavior and be home for the holidays with his family.

"I believe (Jane Doe No. 1)'s transformation of the admittedly inappropriate relationship she did have with Michael into a fictitious relationship, a sexual relationship that never occurred, was the result of personal and psychological and probably financial reasons," Rael said.

"Now that the criminal case is over, we believe they'll file a civil case and make it clear that this was their intention all along," he added.

Brown, lead investigator Chapman and prosecuting attorney Maggie Fleming said after the sentencing last month they were disappointed in the outcome of the case.

"Extremely disappointed. I believe the facts supported the original charges," Chapman said, but admitted there were inconsistencies in the case that came out during the trial.

"Memories aren't as clear as they could be. Witnesses fade into the background. You lose a lot when time passes." he said.

"It's hard if the victim is now an adult because you're asking that person to describe how (he or she) felt as a child," Fleming said. "Perhaps it's difficult for jurors to imagine the adult seated in the witness box as a child."

"Of course we're privy to information the jury never saw," Brown said. "Part of the disappointment is, there are some people that have information that, as mandatory reporters, should have said something about it and didn't."

When asked who, Brown replied, "Teachers and administrators."

In his sentencing comments in July, Judge Dale Reinholtsen agreed. He was particularly harsh in his criticism of school officials.

"Mr. Shaddix has pleaded guilty to felony criminal conduct resulting in mental suffering.

"He violated his position of trust (as a teacher). His conduct separated the victims from their peer group in junior high which are critical years for emotional development.

"It amazed me the administration of the school looked the other way. Even when Mrs. Shaddix called the mother (of Jane Doe No. 1) to tell her to `keep your daughter away,' the result was for the administration to call a meeting with Michael and Michelle Shaddix. The subject was to criticize Mrs. Shaddix for making the call" not to investigate allegations, Reinholtsen said.

"It was incredible that the administration did not ask questions."

An exclusive interview with Jane Doe No. 1








Editor's note: Michael Shaddix, now 36, a teacher, husband and father of three, denies he ever sexually molested his students. He has pleaded guilty to two counts of felony child abuse one each for Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 2 after his trial ended in a hung jury in January. He began serving six months in the Humboldt County jail three weeks ago. See separate story.


The courts and the press protected your identify throughout the trial. Why do you want to remain Jane Doe?

I want to remain Jane Doe not for the community there (in Humboldt County). Many people know who I am already or they certainly will when you identify me by description of my activities. But because (the story) is being put into print, it will end up where I live now. I have a separate life, a new life, and I don't want it coming into this community.

When can we run this interview?

I prefer the story, if you do one, to be printed after he is sentenced. I wouldn't want it to appear that I was attempting to influence the judge or probation officer, who has to make a report. I don't want them to be influenced in a bad way, by being more lenient. I'm worried about that.

Will you appear at the sentencing (held July 19)?

No. A probation officer already knows how awful I feel to be a victim. It's not something I can do right now. I can't dwell on those things any more. I have to get on with my life. And the judge, he's the same one who heard the (preliminary) hearing (and the trial). He sat there and he knows me, knows my face. He saw my emotions, whether I was telling the truth. I don't feel that he needs it again. He already knows me I'm a real person.

Who was the first one you told that Michael Shaddix abused you?

My husband, when we were engaged. I was 18. He encouraged me to come forward. He was at College of the Redwoods going to the police academy. He was studying things like how to respond to rape crisis. He (warned me) it would be very difficult but he encouraged me.

Why did you come forward and agree to testify?

I wanted to do it for kids who were behind me (at Sunny Brae Middle School) not for myself, not for my husband, not for my mother, but for the kids who were in that school. Originally, I didn't want to do it by myself. It would have been a no-win situation he-said, she-said.

After telling your husband, how did you proceed?

I went to Rape Crisis. Eventually I went to the police. ...

We (students) had a photograph taken at the beach (site of one alleged incident) and he gave that to all of us. The Rape Crisis people encouraged me to call girl friends. I specifically did not ask them if it happened. I said, "This happened to me and I wanted to know if you saw something, something suspicious. (Jane Doe No. 2) was the only one. She said, "Wait a second. That happened to me, too."

Are there other girls that you know of with similar stories?

Approximately four or five* who have told others. The DA talked to some, but they don't want to come forward. They are all younger in high school now or just graduated.


*Editor's note: Shaddix denies there were other similar relationships in his letter to the court. However, Fred Jamison, a seventh grade teacher at Sunny Brae Middle School who also teaches sex education, said in a letter to the court that he has knowledge of three girls after Jane Does No. 1 and 2 who told family or friends they had similar experiences but were unwilling or unable to testify. Such hearsay testimony is not admissible in court.


You use the word pedophile to describe Shaddix. (According to Ron Pies, M.D., a professor of clinical psychology at Tufts University in Boston, a pedophile is an adult who turns to prepubescent youths for sexual gratification and who has been unable to achieve sexual maturity in the psychological sense.) Is pedophile an accurate term?

There are many types, this is one.

When did your relationship with Shaddix start?

In seventh grade when I was actually in his class or possibly by the end of sixth grade. In the sixth grade, I had a friend in class. (Jane Doe No. 2) was in his class. In seventh grade, we rotated classrooms. For English, he was the only teacher. I was oldest in class (12 years old) because I was held back in preschool.

You became the teacher's pet?

He would give me special privileges, like running errands, to get out of class. It was very obvious to everyone in the classroom that he favored me. At first, he invited me he was the girls basketball coach to keep the score book. I would go with him in his car. It became an outside-of-school thing sometimes along with (Jane Doe No. 2) and others girls. He did special things with boys, too, but different things. He'd invite us to his house. Sometimes with others and sometimes by myself with his wife there. They'd make dinner.

That sounds like a teacher's pet relationship. How and when did it change?

It first started out as a father-daughter relationship where he counseled me a lot about gymnastics, parents and friends things going on in my life. Then it progressed to a real friendship. I know this will sound odd, but we were on more of a peer level by late seventh grade.


It became a sexual relationship. It was like a boyfriend/girlfriend, holding hands, hugs, kissing, fondling

Fondling your breasts? Thighs?


How do you define sexual relationship?

He was inside of me in my vagina with his fingers, yes. In his classroom with the shades drawn and the door locked. Many times. And off campus.

He denies he had a sexual relationship with you. Do you think he is using a different definition of sexual relations? For instance, did he ever enter your vagina with his penis?

No. He said we would wait until we were married. When I was 18.

He told me he was going to leave his wife. When I graduated from high school, we were going to take a big trip. He talked about that a lot.

Did he have an erection during these encounters?

Yes. He always was lying close enough to me that I could feel him.

Did he masturbate?

I don't know. I was so young, but I remember a time that he had to change his pants.

Did your relationship continue into the eighth grade?

Yes. I did have an elective (class) with him in eighth grade. And (the relationship continued) that summer before high school.

Do you think you were a particularly troubled adolescent?

No. I think I had the same problems that every single other adolescent preteen did stupid things that at the time felt like life or death. I fought with my parents, fought with my gymnastics coach. Obviously I had a lot of friend problems, especially after (our relationship began). They ostracized me. Girls can be cruel at that age sixth and seventh grade. One day they talk to you, the next day they talk behind your back.

Who was your best friend other than Shaddix?

Jane Doe No. 2.

Did you use drugs in junior high?

No. And I never knew about (Jane Doe No. 2)'s substance abuse. She talks about having a problem before (moving to Humboldt for sixth grade).

How long did your relationship with Shaddix last?

It just went into the first few months into my freshman year (at Arcata High). He would still call on the telephone once a week. He lived near the high school. He would leave a note in my locker, saying, I'll call you Tuesday night. There was a phone in garage. I would wait there for him to call. My parents didn't know. In junior high my mom knew whenever he called.

He tutored me in math after school. He'd call me every night and quiz me on math things.

I was not a good student. I wasn't terrible; I never got less than a C. But all my friends were superachievers, so I thought I was scum of the earth.

When did the relationship end?

It ended when I got a boyfriend in high school, by homecoming my freshman year, a few months into the year.

You were still performing in rhythmic gymnastics still eyeing the Olympics. What happened?

I went to New Jersey for the summer between my sophomore and junior years and trained to try out for the group Olympic team for rhythmic gymnastics. It was a pre-selection process. I had to audition to go there; then they evaluated us and they sent the evaluation to us. I made it. We were asked to come back in December.

But you chose not to go?

I realized it was going to be a life-altering decision. I weighed 115 pounds at the time and they wanted me to lose 10. I had to do aerobics, dance, gymnastics so many hours a day on top of my school work. I decided not to continue.

What happened next?

I moved in the middle of my junior year. I had trained (an older) girl who went to college back in Idaho. She opened her own gym in Rexberg, a tiny town near Idaho Falls. She wanted me to teach gymnastics and finish high school there.

It was hard when I decided not to compete anymore. My mom was upset.

I had two really good girl friends (at Arcata High), but it was really cliquey and I just decided I didn't want to go. It gave me an opportunity to leave. My mom didn't want me to, but she let me.

How was the high school there different?

It was very conservative, very family-oriented. I lived with a family. They were LDS (Latter Day Saints Mormons). I loved the church and all the activities. All my friends were LDS, too.

Did you join the church because of your move?

I made a life decision for myself. I would have done it any place. I believe in their doctrines. I loved the emphasis they put on family, coming from a family where my parents were divorced. Mom and dad still fight. It was something that I really wanted to do for myself.

I had a wonderful high school experience there. It was completely different not cliquey. You are accepted for who you are, not your clothes. There's great school spirit and community sports.

Did you meet your husband there?

I met him when I moved back home after high school. He's from Eureka. I met him at church. There's a young single adult ward. I was 18, fell in love. My mom about died. My stepdad was the most upset. Now, my parents love him a lot.

He was at the police academy at the time?

Yes. He was going through all of the training and he really wanted me to come forward.

You were unhappy with the jury deadlock in January?

Very unhappy.

Would you do it again?

If someone asked me now, I don't know what I would say. It takes a certain kind of person to do it. You have to be so mentally prepared. You have to have some foundation in life. I have prayer and God along with my family and support in the community. If I didn't have those, I would not ever recommend it.

How do you feel now?

I was able to let go of it, even before the verdict. I didn't care because, if my life revolved around, if he gets convicted and then he didn't I would have been crushed. But I wasn't.

My husband, in his work now as a policeman, sees both sides. He takes those kinds of reports. He's there to enforce the law. But he knows how difficult it is to go through the system, to get a conviction. Society works against you in areas like this. They don't want to look or think these things happen or they would have to do something to stop it. That's why they call it a silent crime. No one wants to look at what's really going on.

What about the other alleged victims?

I don't feel bad that these other girls did not come forward. You have to be ready. You have to do it for yourself and for the right reasons. If you're in it to be vindictive or to be greedy, you won't get anything out of it. You have to do it for the community for people you want to protect. You have to look at it in those terms.

Will you pursue a civil case?

I can't talk about it. I can't say.

At one point on the stand, the district attorney asked me if I was going to file a civil case for the money. She was surprised by my answer because I said I didn't know I might or might not. She asked me because (defense attorney Greg) Rael wouldn't stop bringing it up to the jury.

Why do you think the jury did not convict him (of sexual molestation)?

I don't know. I was completely honest in all aspects of the court case. I told the truth. The truth might have been distorted because I was 11 years old. I couldn't remember everything. Some juries go by emotion, some by text. "If there were contradictions, then the girls must both be lying." Why? Because we remembered things differently?

And the truth of it is, your body is a body and if you touch it in a certain way, it feels good whether you want it to or not. Society wants you to be a drug addict or have something terrible happen (like the violent abduction and murder of Polly Klaus). Then it's easier (to convict). But it didn't happen that way.

Now what?

I've gone on and made a life for myself that I am proud of and I'm not going to (continue to) be a victim. I'm a survivor and I'm not going to let anyone project me as a victim. I'm not going to play that role.

It must have been strange to see the President Clinton/Monica Lewinsky sex scandal unfold last year on television. Do you see parallels?

Oh, yes. Men taking advantage, where they are a role model, a leader, thinking they can get away with anything. Michael Shaddix has no remorse. He's only sorry he got caught. Same thing with President Clinton. (Monica Lewinsky) idolized him. He was a very powerful man. He was sorry he was caught.

What about the role of the school?

There were numerous times the classroom door was locked, curtains pulled. Once, someone knocked on the door. (Shaddix) opened it and it was the principal (David Hochman). He saw I was in there and the door was shut. Hochman saw. But Hochman and Michael Shaddix were friends. (Shaddix) got the teaching job because of his father and who his father is.

But you never told anyone?

(Shaddix) groomed me so well. First, the father/daughter thing, then making me a peer. An 11-year-old, a peer! And putting me on that same level as him, making me responsible for what's going on. I felt I couldn't tell anyone because (what was happening) was my fault.

My mother is one of the founders of Rape Crisis in Humboldt County. I knew she would make me go to police. It's sad. My mom did a great thing. I'm proud of her and all the things she's done. But her own child was so terrified that she would make me do something. She would always say to me, "You can tell me anything." But I couldn't.

What do I tell my own child now when she's older? Do I say, "Tell me anything?" I don't know what to do. My mom thought she was doing every thing right and in the end it sort of backfired.

Are you in counseling?

Off and on.

What are your feelings now? Revenge? Anger?

I feel sad that he most likely will do this again. I have these issues that I wasn't strong enough to make this stop. I'm upset he is not going to have to register as a sex offender, because at least that is one minuscule way to track him. So, he's going to do it again, because he doesn't feel sorry for what he did. I'm sure he doesn't think it was wrong. He's a classic pedophile. Research shows that he will probably do it again.

I feel like I let the other girls down who haven't been able to come forward because I thought I would be able to show them if you come forward, do the right tine, tell the truth. Then in the end, there'll be a verdict.

Now they might never come forward.

-- Interview conducted by telephone prior to sentencing by Editor Judy Hodgson.

A Letter to the Community

Editor's note: The Journal requested an interview with Michael Shaddix. His attorney, Greg Rael, declined. This is the unedited letter submitted to the court by Shaddix prior to his sentencing. The names of the victims have been replaced by Jane Does No. 1 and 2.


May 26, 1999

An open letter to Judge Reinholtsen and the entire community,

I am terribly sorry for all of the pain and suffering, fear and confusion, and for all of the embarrassment and humiliation that I have brought to the people of the Arcata School District and the surrounding community these past two and one-half years. On May 5, 1999, I plead guilty to two charges of felony child endangerment relating to the emotional abuse I inflicted on my former students (Jane Doe No. 1) and (Jane Doe No. 2). Although my plea was given in exchange for the dismissal of thirteen counts of sexual contact with these or any other children. Nevertheless, it is my hope that with this plea (Jane Doe No. 1) and (Jane Doe No. 2) and their loved ones, and the entire Arcata school community can finally begin healing from the confusion, hurt and anger my actions have caused. I have betrayed the community that I grew up in, the community that my folks live in, the community that I wanted to raise my family in, the community that I loved.

My selfish and destructive behavior with regards to my relationships with (Jane Doe No. 2) and (Jane Doe No. 1) caused friction between neighbors, friends, and, sometimes, family members. I set out to facilitate positive changes in this community through devoting my life to teaching its youth, and instead I ended up fracturing it. For this, I have no one to blame but myself.

The emotional abuse of (Jane Doe No. 1) and (Jane Doe No. 2) is nothing I set out to do, nor was it anything I intended to do, but certainly I should have known better. For an adult to engage in this kind of behavior is inexcusable, for a teacher, deplorable. Both of these girls came to me at a time when things weren't going well in their lives. I developed a strong friendship with each of them that eventually went beyond the bounds of an appropriate adult/child relationship. I became a surrogate parent, I became a peer, and, in (Jane Doe No. 1)'s case, I became a childish would-be boyfriend. These girls put their utmost trust in me, telling me their deepest fears, secrets, thoughts, everything. I opened up my personal world to them, speaking to them as peers, as equals, as friends. In retrospect, I understand that the personal world I shared with these girls was as foolish, immature and confused as the adolescent world of the students I was responsible for teaching. In doing this, I distorted the emotional development of these girls at a time when this part of their growth was especially vulnerable. Because of this intense friendship with (Jane Doe No. 2) and (Jane Doe No. 1), both of them had difficulties in getting along with peers, and this happened at a time when peer relationships are so important to appropriate emotional development. My relationship with these girls did not help their emotional growth as I was intending, but rather severely hindered it. The girls, their parents, put their trust in me and I failed them!

Particularly gut-wrenching for me is the realization that I've betrayed the trust not only of (Jane Doe No. 2) and (Jane Doe No. 1) and their parents, but of every student and parent I've come in contact with during my eight years tenure as teacher and coach. Every student's otherwise positive memories of time spent in my classroom, or on a backpacking trip, or riding in the kinetic sculpture race will now be ringed with dark clouds, and those will not go away with time. I have failed miserably at being the positive influence for kids that I set out to be. All of the long hours, all of the administrative support, all of the faith that parents had put in me, lost! If I had an opportunity to make this up to the students and parents in this community I would in a heartbeat.

Furthermore, I'm afraid that through my careless actions all the students in this community could have a tougher time trusting their teachers. Will Humboldt County students now approach their teachers with a wary eye? I really hope not. This behavior was an aberration for me, and would certainly be an aberration should it show up anywhere else. Humboldt county is filled with hard-working, conscientious teachers who put the welfare of children above all else.

The emotional abuse of children is a serious and disturbing offense. There is not a day that goes by that I don't wish I could go back and undo all of the emotional harm I did to (Jane Doe No. 1) and (Jane Doe No. 2). These were students I cared about, yet I ended up causing them a great deal of emotional stress. Similarly, the reckless relationships I had with these girls have caused my wife Missy, my three children and my parents, the persons whom I love most in this world, a tremendous amount of pain. Since this case has started, Missy has been to counseling, she has left her secure job with the Arcata School District, and she has been subjected to comments and leers from people in this community that she called home. As well, we have lost all of our money and are deep in debt. Our kids have been teased at school, forcing us to take them out of school and home-school them, and they have had to endure three major moves in less than two years. They are currently at their third different school in two years. The stress and uncertainty in their lives have been overwhelming.

My folks, both educators, have suffered because of my thoughtless actions as well. They have had to put off their planned retirements, and they had to mortgage their house to the hilt in order to help pay legal costs. Their house had just been paid off when the original charges were filed. Additionally, my dad devoted his entire career to improving local education, and now my irresponsible behavior has forever put an asterisk next to his accomplishments.

For me, I've thrown away a career that I loved. I've set back my family financially so far that it will take decades to recover if we do at all. We are $215,000 in debt. I've hurt and confused a great many kids and parents. I've lost the trust of many friends. This is in addition to the punishment the court will impose. The crimes of emotional abuse against (Jane Doe No. 1) and (Jane Doe No. 2) were committed 9-10 years ago, but all of us will be suffering the consequences of my actions for the rest of our lives. Perhaps all of the apologies in the world won't change what I've done to these girls, their families, my family, the community of Arcata, and the education profession, but I have to start somewhere: to all of you, I apologize.


Michael Shaddix

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