State

Teacher arrested on abuse charges

Modesto police have arrested a 41-year-old Modesto High School band instructor in connection with his suspected involvement in an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old student.

Detectives arrested Lewis Wilhelm at his central Modesto home Friday night on suspicion of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a child, said Sgt. Craig Gundlach, a Modesto police spokesman.

"A romantic relationship between a 41-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl is inappropriate," Gundlach said. "When you add the inappropriate touching, that's just flat out against the law."

Gundlach said there was no indication that sexual intercourse took place.

Wilhelm was booked into Stanislaus County Jail, but later was released on $25,000 bail, jail officials said.

Attempts to speak with Wilhelm at his home and by phone Saturday were not successful.

Gundlach said detectives searched Wilhelm's home and seized several items, including his computer and cell phone. The detectives said they believe e-mails or text messages may have been exchanged between Wilhelm and the girl.

Wilhelm's 15-year-old son was home at the time of the arrest and was released to his grandmother, Gundlach said.

Wilhelm has been the school's band instructor for 10 years.

Modesto City Schools Superintendent Arturo Flores and Modesto High Principal Hugo Ramos could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Gundlach said the victim told a friend about her relationship with Wilhelm. Friday afternoon, the friend went to school officials to report the relationship.

Gundlach said Modesto City Schools administrators immediately contacted Modesto police school resource officers, who initiated an investigation.

Modesto police Special Victims Unit detectives assisted in the investigation and contacted Wilhelm at his house about 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Detectives said they believe the relationship began in the early summer at one of the school's music department activities, Gundlach said.

On at least one occasion, the victim went to Wilhelm's house and detectives believe Wilhelm engaged in touching of a sexual nature with the student at that time.

The relationship continued through the summer and into the school year, Gundlach said.

"At this point, there is nothing to indicate there are any other victims," said Detective Steve Stanfield. "But we are going to do a thorough investigation to make sure."

In addition to his duties at Modesto High, Wilhelm was a founding member of the Fever Drum and Bugle Corps of Modesto, a competitive musical organization for ages 14-21.

Wilhelm was forced to step down as director in April 2006 because of the organization's financial struggles, said Anna-Marie Bratton, the corps' board president.

Bratton said she is not aware of any inappropriate behavior that took place between Wilhelm and corps members.

"I hate to see this happen to anyone," Bratton said. "I hate to think any kid could be hurt in this way."

Modesto police ask anyone with information about this crime to call CrimeStoppers at 521-4636. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.

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