Teacher’s aide accused of molesting girl
A teacher’s assistant at Mount Garfield Middle School and former Girl Scout leader has been arrested on allegations he repeatedly molested an 8-year-old girl.
Travis M. Cernazanu, 35, 2542 Kennedy Ave., was ordered Monday held at Mesa County Jail on $60,000 bond on suspicion of two counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust and one count of sexual assault on a child as a pattern of abuse. He was arrested Saturday.
Cernazanu had worked with special education students. He was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 17, when District 51 officials learned about an investigation by the Grand Junction Police Department, district spokesman Jeff Kirtland said.
Cernazanu remains on paid leave, and Kirtland said he didn’t know when his employment status would be revisited by District 51 administration. Cernazanu has worked at the school since September 2006, Kirtland said.
An arrest warrant affidavit in the case said the mother of the girl came forward in May and reported her daughter had possibly been assaulted. The mother said she first met Cernazanu three years earlier, that they became friends and that her daughters and the children of a relative of Cernazanu’s would frequently stay the night at his house.
On May 31, Cernazanu pulled the mother aside when she went to his home to pick up her daughters, the affidavit said.
The 8-year-old girl had told another child that Cernazanu had touched her in private areas, the affidavit alleged.
“Cernazanu said this kind of lying could get him in real trouble and he told (mother) she needed to talk to (girl) about not lying,” the affidavit said. “Cernazanu told (mother) he may have unknowingly rolled over in his sleep and touched (girl) somehow, but he was not aware of it.”
Interviewed at the Western Slope Center for Children, the girl told investigators Cernazanu had molested her “a lot,” estimating more than 20 incidents starting when she was about 6, the affidavit alleged.
“(Girl) reported Travis would baby-sit her and her sister on a regular basis and would arrange to have her sleep next to him,” the affidavit said.
The girl said she didn’t tell anyone, even though she wanted him to stop, because “he was her Girl Scout leader and she wanted to stay in Girl Scouts,” the affidavit said. “(Girl) thought she would be kicked out of Girl Scouts.”
A co-worker of Cernazanu’s at Mount Garfield Middle School said there were no red flags with his interaction with students, several of whom he had befriended on Facebook, the affidavit said.
Detectives in June obtained a list of Girl Scouts in a troop once headed up by Cernazanu, but none of the girls made disclosures of sexual abuse, the affidavit said.
Interviewed by a detective Aug. 11, Cernazanu denied inappropriately touching the 8-year-old girl but acknowledged she was among several children who frequently would stay the night at his home, with the children often “cuddling up” against him or sitting on his lap. The girl would also say she loved him, Cernazanu said.
He told a detective he had been the victim of sexual abuse in his childhood.
When the children stayed over, he put air mattresses, sleeping bags and cushions on the floor and slept with them, he told investigators.
“Travis initially indicated (girl) may have been next to him one time,” the affidavit said. “When confronted about this, he changed to say (girl) may have slept next to him 10 times.”
The sister of the 8-year-old girl told detectives the girl had confided incidents of molestation by Cernazanu in the past, the affidavit alleged.