A 72-year-old bus driver from Polk County, Florida, was arrested on Thursday under the accusations that he has been sexually assaulting several special needs elementary school students who travel on his bus.
The arrest of Carlos Ojeda came after a student at Horizons Elementary School in Davenport gained enough courage to approach the school’s guidance counselor on Wednesday and report that he had seen the bus driver inappropriately touch two female students. The student states that the bus driver had been seen placing his hands down the girl’s pants on several different occasions, while they were riding the bus.
The bus driver was initially charged by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office with eight counts of sexual battery for assaulting the two female students, both of whom were under the age of 12 years. However, ABC News reports that by late Friday evening, 72-year-old Carlos Ojeda, of Haines City, had confessed to the sexual abuse of two other victims. All of the girls that Ojeda is accused of abusing are below the age of 12. In fact, all of the students that he drives on the bus are below that age, and are all special needs students.
Following the bus driver’s confession of sexually abusing a total of four girls, detectives interviewed the additional children and added two more counts of sexual battery to the charges he faced when first arrested. In total, he faces ten counts of sexual battery for his deeds.
Carlos Ojeda admitted that he sexually abused the two additional girls a minimum of eight times.
Deputies from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office reviewed surveillance tapes from the bus and identified a disturbing pattern that the bus driver had developed in order to hide the fact that he was abusing these girls for so long. At least three incidents were observed where Ojeda motions for a female student to come to him as he stands on the steps of the bus, using candy as bait. The Sheriff’s department stated that in the video, as the girl gets close to him for the piece of candy he is seen pulling her into a stairwell — where other students cannot see them — and it is there that he sexually abuses her.
When the bus driver finishes abusing the girl, it is said that he then gives her the candy and sends them back to their seat. When the deputies arrested the bus driver on Thursday, he had a number of candy pieces in his pockets.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd spoke on the incident with utter disgust that a man charged with keeping children safe could so abuse his position.
“There are no words to describe the depravity displayed by this suspect. He drives a school bus, where he has access to these precious children.”
The Orlando Sentinel has reported that according to the Sheriff department’s spokeswoman, Carrie Horstman, detectives are currently interviewing other students and parents in order to determine if there were more victims. They are urging anyone that has any knowledge or even suspicions of other abuse cases to contact the Sheriff’s office.
Ojeda is being held without bond at the Polk County Jail and has been suspended without pay from his job.
Carlos Ojeda has driven a school bus for three different schools in the past, including Boone Middle and Ridge Community High school, and has been with the Polk County Schools since 2007.
[Image via Christopher Boswell/Shutterstock]