CHRISTIAN COUNTY, Mo.- A teacher at the Cedar Ridge Intermediate School in Branson has been charged with sexually exploiting a minor in Christian County.
Court documents say on September 20, a father called Christian County authorities saying that his 9-year-old daughter had told him that Thomas L. Schembri III took a photograph of her during a tutoring session.
The daughter told investigators at the Child Advocacy Center that when Schembri was taking the explicit picture, she didn’t say anything to Schembri because she was afraid it was going to cause a problem.
According to court documents, a Christian County investigator contacted Schembri at Cedar Ridge Intermediate. The investigator talked to Schembri about why he was there, and then Schembri denied taking a photograph of the young girl.
After being asked if he had anything inappropriate on his phone, Schembri stated he had about four pictures of a female crotch area and said the female was of age.
Schembri told the investigator the pictures were sent to him a month prior. Additionally, he denied consent for the investigator to search his phone, which was seized as evidence.
Schembri then requested a lawyer, and the questioning ended.
Later that day, the investigator asked the daughter’s father what she was wearing that day the pictures were taken. Court documents say the investigator then went to the Springfield Police Department, where the phone was taken to for forensics, and saw the images matched the clothing description the father gave the investigator.
The investigator says if released, Schembri would pose a threat to the community, especially to children.
OzarksFirst reached out to the Branson School District for a statement on Schembri; they said:
The District is aware of this matter, but cannot comment on personnel matters, as they are confidential; however, we take these matters very seriously and have cooperated fully with Christian County law enforcement during their investigation, and have addressed the situation in accordance with Board Policy and the law. We have been given no reason to believe that any current or former students are connected to, have been impacted by, or are victims in any manner. Our priority is the safety and well-being of District students and staff, and we are committed to providing a safe and successful learning environment in Branson Public Schools.
Schembri is scheduled for his first court hearing on October 20 at 1:30 p.m.