Ex-Midlands elementary school teacher guilty of sexually abusing 6-year-old student

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A former teacher at a Lexington County elementary school is going to prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing a 6-year-old student, the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s Office said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Hianlucas Isturiz Rodriguez, 43, received the maximum sentence — 15 years in prison — after he pleaded guilty to a third-degree charge of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, the solicitor’s office said in a news release.

Rodriguez worked at Red Bank Elementary School from 2014 until 2017 where he was a Spanish language immersion teacher, according to the release. The Lexington County school had about 550 students at the time.

“Señor Isturiz,” as he was known to his students, was accused of inappropriately touching a 6-year-old at school in April 2017. The girl said she was abused from the start of the school year through spring break in 2017, according to the solicitor’s office.

The victim provided a detailed account of the inappropriate touching that was later corroborated by additional evidence found at the school, according to the release.

When Rodriguez was told he was being placed on administrative leave pending an investigation for unprofessional conduct with a student, he left the country for South America, the solicitor’s office said.

Rodriguez was fired in May 2017, according to a statement from Lexington School District 1.

The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department obtained arrest warrants for Rodriguez in 2017 and asked for the public’s help in locating him. They later received a tip from a member of the public that Rodriguez “had fled the country,” the department said.

In the summer of 2019, Rodriguez was apprehended in Ecuador, and the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, and the Columbia Metropolitan Airport Department of Public Safety helped the sheriff’s department extradite Rodriguez to Lexington County that December, according to the solicitor’s office.

After he was extradited, Rodriguez was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, according to sheriff’s department.

Information on why there was a charge reduction was not available.

During the sentencing hearing, the parents of the victim expressed the anger and hurt they felt toward the man entrusted with the care of young students, according to the release.

“While this case will, in a sense, be laid to rest today, it will never be laid to rest for these children,” sheriff’s department investigator Karen Miller said. “These children will continue to bear and wrestle with their new trauma for the rest of their lives.”

After he is released from prison, Rodriguez will be required to register as a sex offender and be subject to electronic monitoring, the solicitor’s office said. He also could face deportation back to his home country of Venezuela, according to the release.

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