Deputies: Two more victims were molested by Polk bus driver
DAVENPORT (FOX 13) - Investigators said they have identified two more victims who were molested by a Polk County school bus driver. The suspect, Carlos Ojeda, is accused of sexually abusing young special needs girls who ride his bus.
According to the sheriff's office, a student at Horizons Elementary School in Davenport told his school counselor Wednesday that he saw Ojeda repeatedly put his hands down the pants of two female students.
When investigators checked the school bus video surveillance system, they say the footage showed Ojeda, 72, motioning to the girls and flashing candy from the stairwell of his parked bus.
Once a girl was within arm's length, the video allegedly shows Ojeda pulling her toward him and sexually battering her out of view of the other students by touching her under her clothing. He then gave her candy before she headed back to her seat.
The scene played out three different times, investigators say, within the last week.
When he was arrested Thursday, deputies said, Ojeda had candy in his pocket. He has since allegedly told detectives he sexually battered the two girls -- each of whom was under 12 -- eight times.
"There are no words to describe the depravity displayed by this suspect," Sheriff Grady Judd offered. "He drives a school bus, where he has access to these precious children. He lures them with candy, and physically assaults them in such a way that nobody will see it, or report it."
"It's clear to us, through her action and through his, that this is an ongoing behavior between him and this particular victim," sheriff's office spokesperson Carrie Horstman added. "These victims know what he wants from them and that they'll be rewarded with candy -- and that's what's particularly disturbing."
Ojeda was initially charged with eight counts of capital sexual battery, but two more counts were added after investigators identified two additional victims late Friday.
According to the Polk County School Board, Ojeda drove a school bus for three different schools: Bus number 0603 for Horizons Elementary, Boone Middle, and Ridge Community High. He has been employed as a Polk County bus driver since April 2007.
"I am angry and deeply saddened," Superintendent Jacqueline M. Byrd wrote in a statement following the arrest. "We took swift action. The bus driver was immediately suspended without pay, and after reviewing information from the sheriff's office, a recommendation to terminate his employment will be brought before the Polk County School Board on April 26."
Detectives, meanwhile, plan to continue to interview all of the school children Ojeda had access to, along with their parents, to identify any other potential victims.
"How many other kids are there? Because they couldn't tell their parents? They didn't know what happened to them," offered Horizon Elementary parent Reba Higdon.