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BREAKING NEWS: Two men with ties to Adventist education made headlines this week in unrelated cases involving allegations of sex with minors. One charge involved the principal of the Eastern Shore Junior Academy in Sudlersville, Maryland. The other involved the former boys dean at Ozark Adventist Academy in Gentry, Arkansas.
On Monday, Edward Constantino Rodriguez, the 22-year-old former boys dean at Ozark Adventist Academy entered a "not guilty" plea to charges of second degree sexual assault, according to a report from the Benton County Daily Record. Rodriguez, a native of Amarillo, Texas could face a sentence of five to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The charges come from a 16-year-old girl who alleges that Rodriguez checked her out of her dormitory to go to Wal-Mart. According to an affidavit, the two had sex in the car before returning to the school, a claim which Rodriguez denies. According to court documents, Rodriguez contends that the girl kissed him, touched him inappropriately, and at some point sent him nude photographs of herself.
Rodriguez, currently free on $50,000 bond, is scheduled to stand trial starting on September 8 with pretrial hearings slated for August 31st.
That same day, Lowell Litton, Jr., the principal of Eastern Shore Junior Academy was arrested for allegedly molesting a 14-year-old girl. A report from WBAL-TV in Baltimore states that Litton, 39, will face three charges: third-degree sex offense, fourth-degree sex offense and sex abuse of a minor.
The principal is currently being held on $25,000 bond at Kent County Detention Center, according to the report. If convicted, he could face up to 36 years behind bars.
Officials have asked anyone with more information pertinent to this case to call 410-758-1101.
According to breaking reports from the Baltimore Sun, Litton was released on $25,000 on the day of his arrest. A new warrant for his arrest was subsequently issued for another charge, this time involving a thirteen-year-old girl.
Lowell Litten Jr., the principal at Eastern Shore Junior Academy, was arrested Monday on charges of sex abuse of a minor in Kent County and released later that day on $25,000 bond.
A warrant was issued Wednesday in Queen Anne's County charging the 39-year-old Sudlersville man with sexual abuse of a minor and second-degree sex offense in an incident involving a 13-year-old girl.
Maryland State Police are seeking to take Litten into custody on the Queen Anne's County District Court warrant.
State's Attorney Lance Richardson says he hopes Litten will be held without bond once he is arrested again.
The Adventist Church underwent significant upheaval in 2004 when a California law allowed claimants to bring charges of prior sexual abuse to court. In one of nearly 800 suits filed under the state law, five men accused two of their teachers during the 1980's of providing alcohol and marijuana to the five, and then raping them.
The Central California Conference agreed to pay $3.5 million and to change its policies in order to settle the suit. One of the teachers shot and killed himself when the suit became public. The other vigorously denied the charges.
[See this Los Angeles Times report]