Ex-officer, educator accused of preying on teen: 2019 Safe2Tell tip launches investigation in Cedaredge

A former police officer-turned paraprofessional who once helped tutor students at Cedaredge High School was arrested late last week on suspicion of sexual offenses against a teenage girl.

Shawn Sanchez, 42, was arrested on an April 23 warrant alleging sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust; attempted sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust; sexual exploitation of a child and unlawful electronic sexual communication. Formal charges have not been filed.

No attorney of record was listed for Sanchez in the available court documents. According to his arrest affidavit, Sanchez denied “anything physical” between himself and the girl.

His arrest came after an investigation that began in 2019 with a tip to Colorado’s Safe2Tell hotline.

According to Delta County Jail information, Sanchez was granted a $50,000 personal recognizance bond, but as of Wednesday, his release was pending the arrival of appropriate GPS tracking monitors. (If Sanchez fails to abide by the conditions of his PR bond, he will have to post $50,000 to be released again.)

Sanchez no longer works at the school. His arrest affidavit alleges he manipulated a teenager into sending him topless photos and that he texted her a photo showing his penis erect under his underwear.

The affidavit also accuses Sanchez of touching the girl under her bra in school and trying to put his hand in her pants in the school library.

Cedaredge Police Department Officer Stewart Byrge began investigation Aug. 1, 2019, after receiving a Safe2Tell report that the girl had been communicating with Sanchez and, at a birthday party, word circulated that Sanchez had placed his hand up her shirt.

Following the tip, Byrge spoke to another person who had been named in the tip, and her parents. The young woman provided the names of others who had been at the party and according to the affidavit, said the reported victim had been texting Sanchez and was showing her the text messages.

However, they did not share the information with another girl at the party, because that girl had previously reported to Cedaredge High School administration that Sanchez and their mutual friend had “been texting constantly.” Sanchez’s phone at the time had been searched.

The affidavit does not indicate what happened next, however, Sanchez stopped working for the school district before 2020, school administration said.

“(Witness) stated that the messages that Shawn sends to (reported victim) ‘is not good to say,’” Byrge wrote.

One of the messages, as alleged by more than one witness, detailed how Sanchez wanted to meet the girl at a Cedaredge grocery store and engage in sexual activity in the back, according to the affidavit.

According to allegations in the document, Sanchez wanted to meet up with the girl to fulfill a dream he had about having sexual contact with her there.

Byrge wrote that the mother of the reported victim reacted initially with denial, saying she thought the reports were false and the result of other students trying to harass Sanchez. However, she and her husband took their daughter to the Cedaredge Police Department and later, the Dolphin House Child Advocacy Center, for interviews. The girl’s father agreed to turn over her phone for a forensic search.

According to Byrge’s report of his interview, the girl was getting extra help with schoolwork from Sanchez, a paraprofessional. However, he had her send pictures of her homework and tests, then would complete the homework and send pictures back to her via Facebook Messenger.

The teenager alleged Sanchez had been sending her messages about sexually explicit dreams and had mentioned wanting to meet up at the grocery store to have sex in the back. She did not meet him there, but alleged conversations about it would take place “at least three times a week” and that he had also suggested meeting up at a baseball field.

Sanchez also “guilt-tripped” her into sending him photos of her, the affidavit further alleges. The teenager told Byrge that Sanchez “would make her feel bad or he would get (redacted) angry to the point she would send another picture.” The photos included a few topless ones, as well as one of her in underwear.

She also reported that he demanded a photo if she hit a foul ball during softball and that she would send pictures to avoid upsetting him.

The teenager also disclosed being groped in science class when Sanchez allegedly reached beneath her shirt, unfastened her bra, and touched her breast.

A second time, he allegedly groped her as she passed by.

The girl told Byrge that when she got into arguments at home, she would message Sanchez saying she wished he could come pick her up — and he was able to identify and text to her her address, even though she had not told him.

“(Witness) had no clue how Shawn got her address, but she knew Shawn had previously been a police officer, because he told her,” Byrge wrote.

Sanchez formerly worked for the Paonia Police Department. According to town records, he was employed with the department from May 2008 to May 2015.

His start date with the Delta County School District, where he was listed as a staff member for the Special Education Department at Cedaredge High School, could not be immediately confirmed. However, Sanchez is no longer employed there, Assistant Superintendent Kurt Clay said. Sanchez did not work for the district at all last year, he said.

According to the arrest affidavit, the complaining witness provided the Dolphin House interviewer with information similar to what she had told Byrge, including Sanchez’s alleged attempts to put his hand down her pants in the school library. The teenager leaned forward to stop him and he called her “a chicken,” according to the affidavit’s allegations.

Byrge later interviewed another of the girl’s friends, who alleged seeing Sanchez “tickling” the girl on her thighs and crotch area. She stated to the officer: “No teacher is supposed to do that. None.” She also alleged the girl showed her a photo of Sanchez in his underwear.

The witness further reported Sanchez would give the girl the silent treatment if she made him angry, but that if the girl sent explicit photos, he would be happy and talk to her again.

Sanchez voluntarily went to CPD for interviews and allegedly admitted there were some inappropriate photos and sexual content on the phone. He denied sending the girl a picture that was sexual in nature.

“Shawn also stated that he is setting himself up for failure but he ‘Needs to clear it.’ Shawn was giving limited information because he does not want to lock himself down into a story without the transcripts,” Byrge wrote.

“ … Shawn also said that we have enough to ‘screw’ him in court. Shawn also wants to meet with the DA and hopefully get a good plea.”

Sanchez denied anything physical between himself and the student and reiterated he had never touched her, per Byrge’s report.

A forensic examination found several photos on the girl’s phone, including topless photos, per the arrest affidavit. There were also about 30 screenshots of conversations; however, the images were too small and of too poor quality to read.

After police served a warrant at Sanchez’s home for some of his electronics, he allegedly admitted he had been speaking with the teenager inappropriately and that she had sent him topless pictures, which he had deleted.

Sanchez’s final interview was in February this year. He again denied physically touching the girl and said “not that I remember offhand” when questioned about requesting explicit photos.

Byrge alleged Sanchez had the teenager send explicit photos for sexual gratification and that, based on the alleged photo of Sanchez in his underwear, the alleged fantasies about having sex with the teenager, and his then-place of employment, it “shows a sexual predator mentality.”

Sanchez is next due in court May 11 for appearance of legal counsel.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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