MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Manatee County school board employee was charged after facing allegations of molesting a third-grade student at school, according to deputies.
Angel Rodriguez Mercado, 67, was a paraprofessional at Abel Elementary School when the 7-year-old student reported the crime on Nov. 7 to a relative.
When The Crimes Against Children Unit received the report, Manatee County detectives began investigating and Mercado was removed from having contact with kids at the school.
Authorities said on Wednesday, Mercado confessed to committing Lewd and Lascivious Molestation on the child at school.
The student didn’t give a specific timeline, but deputies determined from Mercado’s interview that it happened two times while other students were in the classroom, Lieutenant Morie said in a press conference Thursday.
Mercado was charged and booked at the Manatee County Jail. He made his first appearance virtually on Thursday afternoon, where he was appointed a public defender. The judge said he could face life in prison, and did not set a bond, pending an Arthur Hearing.
“We commend the bravery of the victim in disclosing this information which led to Mercado’s arrest. We encourage parents to speak to their children about molestation and how to report this crime,” the sheriff’s department said.
Mercado was hired in 2016 as a janitor and worked as an ESOL teacher, teaching about five or six students in a class.
“I’m a parent. It’s disgust and shock. You instantly feel anger and concern for the child,” the lieutenant said.
The child will have access to treatment following this incident, the lieutenant said.
Anyone with information about this case, or who knows someone who could be a victim, is asked to contact the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 941-747-3011.