Kenosha County teacher arrested in Burlington; faces child pornography, sexual assault charges | Crime & Courts | #teacher | #children | #kids


BURLINGTON — An elementary school band teacher from Wheatland in Kenosha County has been charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl and possession of child pornography in his hometown of Burlington.

Zachary Wendt, 38, who was arrested by Burlington police, is being held in the Racine County Jail on $500,000 bond, following an initial court appearance Thursday on six felonies and two misdemeanors.

Wendt is charged with two felony counts of sexual assault of a child by a person who works or volunteers with children; three felony counts of possession of child pornography; one felony count of exposing genitals or other intimate parts; and two misdemeanor counts of sexual intercourse with a child aged 16 or older.

If convicted on all charges, he could face up to 75 years in prison.

A criminal complaint issued by the Racine County district attorney describes the alleged victim as a 16-year-old girl who knew Wendt through Musicology, a retail store in Burlington where Wendt was offering music lessons.

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The store, located at 452 N. Pine St., lists Wendt on its website among four music teachers associated with the business.

Officials at Musicology could not be reached for comment Thursday.

According to the criminal complaint, the 16-year-old girl told police that she, too, provided music lessons at Musicology, and that Wendt asked her out on a date, thinking she was 20 years old. After she told him that she was only 16, the complaint states, he continued pursuing her and they ended up having sex.

Wendt is accused of taking the girl to his home in the 600 block of Meadow Lane, getting her drunk and then having sex with her. After the first assault in February, the complaints alleges, Wendt had sex with the girl again in May or June.

The girl told investigators that the two also engaged in “sexting” on their cellphones, and that she sent him nude photos of herself.

According to the complaint, Wendt urged the girl not to say anything to anyone because he “would lose his children.” In exchange, he allegedly offered to send students to her for music lessons.

The complaint indicates that police executed a search warrant at Wendt’s home and seized cellphones and a laptop computer.

Burlington police Sgt. Robert Jones said in a statement Thursday that the police received a tip via the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about a male school teacher having a possibly “sexual relationship” with a 16-year-old girl.

After interviewing the alleged victim, her mother and others, Jones said, police took Wendt into custody.

“As this is an ongoing investigation,” the sergeant continued, “the Burlington Police Department is asking potential victims related to this case to reach out.”

Wendt serves as a band teacher on the faculty at Wheatland Center School, located in the Town of Wheatland in Kenosha County.

During an initial appearance Thursday in Racine County Circuit Court, defense attorney Gregory Holdahl argued for a low pre-trial bond by noting that Wendt has no previous criminal history and that he has a job.

However, Holdahl added, “He’s obviously not going to be able to go back to that employer.”

Court Commissioner John Bjelajac set bond at $500,000 — twice what the district attorney had suggested.

Wendt is due back in court Dec. 16 for a preliminary hearing.

Wheatland School District Administrator Marty McGinley sent a note home to parents Wednesday announcing that an unidentified employee had been arrested for “an alleged situation.” McGinley wrote that the allegations stem from circumstances outside the Wheatland district and not involving any Wheatland student.

McGinley also announced that a school band concert scheduled for Thursday was being postponed “due to the circumstances surrounding this investigation.” McGinley told parents that the unidentified employee has been suspended without pay.

Contacted at his office Thursday, McGinley declined to comment.

The school’s website identifies Wendt as a band teacher and as band director. A Milwaukee TV station last year featured Wendt for recording a video of himself playing several musical instruments in a unique rendition of the Queen rock classic, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Wheatland Center School, located at 6606 368th Ave., has about 580 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is not affiliated with the Burlington Area School District, although its mailing address is in Burlington.

McGinley assured parents that counselors and other officials would be available to answer any student questions about the situation.

“As a school district, our first and most important responsibility is to ensure the safety of our students,” he wrote. “We will continue to do everything we can to make that happen.”

Jill Tatge-Rozell of the Kenosha News contributed to this report.



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