A former William Chrisman High School teacher accused of molesting a student died just a day before his scheduled court hearing.
James N. Owens, 29, of Lee’s Summit, died July 30. The cause of death is unknown.
According to court records, a plea hearing was scheduled for July 31, but had been rescheduled for Aug. 21. Owens faced charges of enticing a child and second-degree child molestation, a misdemeanor. Court records also indicate that a trial had also been scheduled for Monday, Aug. 4., but it was canceled.
In 2012, Owens was accused of having an improper relationship with a 14-year-old female student. The mother of the victim intercepted a conversation thread on Facebook between Owens and the girl that contained sexually explicit messages, according to the probable cause statement. The student also admitted to a school counselor that she and Owens had a romantic relationship, which included kissing and touching that sometimes occurred in the Chrisman band room.
A court order was made in October 2012 to go through Owens’ cellphone records, which showed more than 100 calls and over 1,500 text messages were made to or from the victim’s phone.
The allegations were brought to the district’s attention in August 2012, according to the prosecutor’s documents. It was the same time when the district began its own investigation of the relationship between Owens and the student. Owens was immediately put on leave and did not return to Chrisman.
In 2011, the Missouri Legislature passed a law that would prohibit teachers friending students on Facebook. However, later that year, a portion of the law was repealed and Missouri school districts were left to create their own social media policies.