Published Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 | 1:45 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 | 9:20 a.m.
The defense attorney for the Las Vegas kindergarten teacher accused of harboring a runaway teen told the court today his client inspired the girl to want to become an elementary school teacher.
According to court documents filed by prosecutors, the 16-year-old also took away something else from the experience: a sexually transmitted disease.
New details about the kidnapping case against 45-year-old Melvyn Perry Sprowson Jr. emerged today in Clark County District Court, where Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez heard an appeal of the $530,000 bail set last month in Las Vegas Justice Court.
Despite prosecutors’ pleas, Gonzalez agreed to lower bail for Sprowson. Prosecutors, who originally asked for bail of $56,000, argued they would have sought a higher amount had they known all of the facts of the case at the time.
Court documents filed by the prosecution outline the following:
The girl was missing for more than two months before police tracked her to Sprowson’s apartment.
Frustrated with her mother and looking for a way out, the teen stumbled on Sprowson’s Craigslist ad for a roommate. The pair started messaging and on Aug. 29 when she told him she couldn’t take being home anymore, Sprowson picked up the girl.
The teacher and the teen fell in love, the girl told police. The couple spent their time together playing board games and sharing take-out meals.
The girl wasn’t allowed to go out until after dark, and Sprowson let her drink alcohol.
Sprowson told the girl that if they were discovered, he had $30,000 and would find her so they could be together.
On Oct. 31, Sprowson was visited on the job at Wengert Elementary School by Metro and Clark County School District police officers. He told investigators he didn’t know the girl’s whereabouts but acknowledged they had exchanged messages and he’d once wired money to her.
A day later, police went to Sprowson’s apartment and the girl answered the door. Sprowson was arrested the same day.
Sprowson is charged with first-degree kidnapping, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and giving a false statement to the police.
Although a 16-year-old can consent to sex, according to Nevada law, it is illegal to keep a minor from his or her parents, even if the minor consents.
Prosecutors, in court documents, also said that on the teen’s first day back, the girl said she’d rather kill herself than live with her mother. That night, the teen’s mother slept in front of her daughter’s door to keep her from fleeing.
The girl was hospitalized because she kept threatening to harm herself, prosecutors said. During the girl’s treatment, it was discovered she had an unspecified sexually transmitted disease that, prosecutors maintain, she got from the defendant.
Sprowson’s attorney John Momot refused to comment on the case or how prosecutors had linked the teen’s sexually transmitted disease to Sprowson.
Momot told the court the case wasn’t a typical because the girl was not troubled. Momot said the teen was smart and had a bright future. Momot said the girl told detectives her experience with Sprowson had inspired her to want to become an elementary school teacher.
Momot argued this was a case of a mother and daughter in need of counseling.
“She doesn’t want to go home. That’s the problem,” Momot said.
“We’re in the criminal courtroom because he advertised for a roommate. She sought him out,” Momot added.
The girl had a history of trying to escape her home life before meeting Sprowson, Momot said.
“This is a mother-daughter situation,” Momot said. “She doesn’t want to go home. She doesn’t want to be a victim.”
Momot decried Las Vegas Township Judge William Kephart's bail setting as outrageous — especially for a man with no criminal history and gainful employment.
Sprowson's employment as a first-year kindergarten teacher at Wengert Elementary School caused Kephart's to set bail well above what the prosecution's suggested $56,000.
“I know that there is a presumption of innocence here; I understand that. But the problem I’m having with this is the nature of his employment, his dishonesty with the police when they first talked to him,” Kephart said when he set bail for Sprowson.
“What he is doing in our community, what his job is in our community, he has somewhat of a higher responsibility to our children, I think, than somebody who is not educated,” Kephart added.
Gonzalez lowered Sprowson’s bail from $530,000 to $130,000 and ordered that if Sprowson posted bail he would be placed under house arrest and not be allowed to have contact with the teen or her family.
Wednesday afternoon, the Clark County School District said Sprowson was no longer employed by the district. Before coming to Las Vegas, Sprowson had spent nearly 10 years as an elementary school teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He resigned Jan. 31, 2012, from his position as a fifth-grade teacher at Magnolia Elementary School in Los Angeles, according to records provided by the California school district.
A preliminary hearing is set for Monday, when the case returns to Las Vegas Justice Court.