Public Safety

Prosecutor: Starry Elementary kindergarten teacher did nothing to help young girls after reported abuse

(File photo) Marion’s Starry Elementary School.
(File photo) Marion’s Starry Elementary School.

TOLEDO — Two kindergartners at Starry Elementary in Marion had “terrible and horrendous” incidents happen to them within the first month of school in 2016, a prosecutor said Monday as a trial over the teacher’s actions opened here.

Both the young girls turned to someone who could help — their teacher, Diane Graham. But she did nothing, Assistant Linn County Attorney Andrew Powers told a Tama County jury.

Graham is charged with failing to report child sexual abuse as a mandatory reporter, a simple misdemeanor. A criminal complaint states two students in her class, on two occasions, told Graham about incidents involving a class volunteer — Logan McMurrin, then 15.

Graham, who is on administrative leave, failed to report the children’s disclosures to law enforcement or the Iowa Department of Human Services, according to the complaint.

As a teacher, she is a mandatory reporter of child abuse. Iowa law requires any licensed school employee to report abuse against a child younger than 12 within 24 hours.

McMurrin later was convicted in Linn County Juvenile Court of three counts of sexual abuse against two 6-year-old girls and a 5-year-old girl. Graham’s trial was moved from Linn County to Tama County based on pretrial publicity.

A jury of six men and two women were selected Monday afternoon and testimony got underway. The trial continues 9 a.m. Tuesday and is expected to last all week.

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Powers said the girls had told Graham that McMurrin sexually abused them during class when he worked one-on-one with them. One child told Graham the male volunteer touched her inappropriately, and the other child said she told Graham that he did it more than once.

Graham told one of the girls, after the girl had disclosed the abuse, that McMurrin is a “good kid and you’ll be fine,” Powers asserted.

Another teacher will testify that she shared her concerns with Graham about McMurrin’s “odd behavior” when she saw him in her classroom, Powers noted. That teacher said McMurrin had a child sit on his lap, which she later told to Graham.

Graham didn’t disclose what the girls had told her until after she received an email from one of the girl’s mothers, Powers said. Graham then reported it to the Marion High School principal, but not police.

Powers said the jury will view the St. Luke’s Child Protection Center interviews of the girls, who also will testify.

Mark Brown, Graham’s attorney, said in his opening statement that it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Graham knew of the abuse and “willfully” didn’t report it.

“What would be a veteran teacher’s motivation?” Brown asked. “What is the motivation not to report abuse?”

Graham, within minutes of receiving the email from the mother, forwarded it to the principal, Brown said.

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One girl didn’t disclose anything about Graham in the first child protection center interview. but then did about six months later. Brown questioned if the disclosure was “comprehensible” and added that the girl probably had talked to friends and family in between these times.

Brown also asked the jury to consider the timeline of when a police officer asked for the charge on Nov. 23, 2016 — but one wasn’t filed until April, after McMurrin was already in court.

“Hold the state to its huge burden of proof,” Brown said.

If convicted, Graham faces up to a $625 fine or up to 30 days in jail.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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